In Depth: New fee could subsidize study abroad trips

ASUU leaders and U administrators have looked into potentially increasing student fees by $3 to subsidize international study abroad programs. After several years of consideration, the initiative might be close to realization.

The Associated Students of the University of Utah executive branch attempted to establish the fee last year, but to no avail because of a lack of student support. A survey administered last February showed that while freshmen and sophomores were in favor of the plan, juniors and seniors were not.

Basim Motiwala, vice president of ASUU, explained that the upperclassmen were justified in their disapproval because they wouldn’t “want to pay for something that they likely won’t use.”

They are now trying to introduce a grandfather clause into the fee, so if the program is implemented, only freshmen and sophomores would pay the tentative $3, while juniors and seniors would not have to spend money on a program that they are not likely to use at all.

The administration intends to send out another survey about the fee via e-mail later this year. The survey would ask students for their opinion about a new study abroad fee, this time making the new exemption clause clear for juniors and seniors, in order to “get a more accurate read,” Motiwala said.

With the results of the new survey, ASUU plans to introduce the program to the student Senate and General Assembly within the following month or two, according to Tori Ballif, the U’s coordinator for internationalization.

If the study abroad fee is successful, ASUU hopes it will encourage the creation of additional programs to help students study in more countries. The enthusiasm from incoming freshmen is clear: 70 percent showed interest in study abroad programs, according to a survey administered over the summer. However, the students were not asked about the fee.

Ballif said if one third of the costs for studying abroad could be subsidized, most underclassmen would be able to afford the programs.

Plans for the fee are still in the preliminary stage, but one proposal on the table calls for the money generated by the fee collections to be split two ways. ASUU President Spencer Pearson estimates that $1.00 to $1.50 of it could go toward study abroad programs in the International Center and the rest would be left to accumulate in an endowment fund that would grow with interest.

Pearson estimates that such an endowment fund would produce significant opportunities for students within 15 to 20 years. However, he also assures that opportunities could become available to students during the first year, depending on how much the fee can collect.

The possibility of no endowment fund is also in the air and aiming the rewards of the program to current students, which would produce “$100,000 off the bat a year and between $1500 and $2000 in study abroad scholarships for students. So that’d be a lot of opportunities,” Pearson said.

The U administration has proposed to match every $3 paid in fees with $1. While the possibility of a $2 match from the administration came up last year, Pearson cannot confirm the same for this year.

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