Study abroad numbers steadily increasing

Tayler Critchlow

Georgia Southern University Center for International Studies aims to increase GSU’s study abroad presence in the next few years.

“Our target is four hundred. We have been sniffing four hundred. We are very close to four hundred for the last few years. Four hundred is where we want to be, essentially that is two percent of our student body going abroad every year,” Jeffery Palis, Ph.D., associate director for the Center of International Studies, said.

That number takes all students going abroad for academic credit and students participating in European Council and International Student Exchange Program into account.

The long-term goal is to send seven percent of students abroad, which is approximately 1,300 students.

Several years ago the University System of Georgia (USG) Board of Regents had an International Education Office that oversaw study abroad, international students and globalizing the curriculum, Palis said.

The International Education Office mandated that every university within the system needed to send seven percent of students abroad and had funding to support the mandate, however due to budget decrease the office was cut, Palis said.

All USG institutions are looking to increase the number of students going abroad.

“The university who, in many ways, has done quite a bit of commendable work with international education within Georgia has been Kennesaw State,” Palis said.

Kennesaw State University, as well as Columbus State University and Georgia State University, have implemented an international fee.

Approximately 750 students from KSU travel abroad for non-credit and for-credit trips per academic year.  A Global Learning Fee of $14 was created five years ago to fund scholarships for those going abroad, Iyonka Strawn- Vaozy, international program manager for the Institute for Global Initiative, said.

The longer a student will travel abroad, the more they will receive in scholarships.

“I’m not advocating for a fee, and I’m not going to make an argument for a fee. I think students frankly pay enough damn fees. Now I think that eventually if we want to see the number of students grow we have to find financial resources to help students go abroad,” Palis said.

West Georgia University has an average of 200 students travel abroad each year, and although it would like more students to travel abroad it does not have a final goal, Kristin Etheredge, international student advisor at WGU, said.

Students at WGU pay an international fee of $5 a semester that has been around for about five years.  The money goes to fund study-abroad scholarships that are awarded to nearly every student studying abroad, receiving an amount of at least $500.

In order to have more students traveling abroad, there will need to be more financial opportunities to help, such as more scholarships available to them, Palis said.

Along with campaigns to raise money for students to go abroad, the Center for International Studies is turning to other methods of gaining student attention through publicity and increased amount of programs available.

“We have to balance a portfolio. We have to have the core classes abroad. We have to have upper division courses and majors whether it be foreign language or less commonly considered majors, but then we also can’t go away from our most popular programs,” Palis said.

Programs continue to be created to attract students who need core credit and want to take foreign languages.

Palis said, “Just because you have a college degree doesn’t mean you are getting a job, so what are you doing here in your four years or four and a half years, or however many, to get the most out of your experience?”