Study abroad providers at numerous colleges have been buried in controversy following a New York Times article in late August.
The article found many study abroad providers have offered financial incentives to universities, including free overseas visits to college officials and money in return for increased student involvement.,”Study abroad providers at numerous colleges have been embroiled in controversy following a New York Times report in late August.
According to the Times report, many study abroad providers have offered financial incentives to universities, including free overseas visits to college officials and money in return for increased student involvement.
New York attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, began issuing subpoenas to several study abroad providers, said Geoffery Bannister, president and chief academic officer of Cultural Experiences Abroad. A spokesman for Cuomo's office declined a Tribune request for comment.
"Obviously, there are sloppy practices that need to be reevaluated," said Barmak Nassirian, associate director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. "The attorney general is tapping us on the shoulder."
Many institutions see study abroad programs as a possible revenue source for the school, he said.
"Institutions under the duress of balancing budgets have entered into all kinds of arrangements that cannot, on second thought, be the best way of doing things," Nassirian said.
The Times reported that one study abroad provider, the American Institute of Foreign Study, gives participating colleges and universities a free trip to an official for every 15 students that join a program and a 5 percent share of the fees students pay. The University of Mary Washington is one institution that works with AIFS. Theresa Mannix, director of news and public information at Mary Washington, said their director has accepted two free site visits from the AIFS.
"These are working trips,not vacations," Mannix said. "Definitely anything we get back we pass on to students through scholarships."
He also said serving students in his university's top priority.
"If you want to play their game, you have to play by their rules, but we want to find out what's best for students," he said.
But Nassirian said while the trips aren't vacations, visits paid for by providers raise ethical and legal questions, such as who school officials are working for and why their institution doesn't pay for their expenses.
In order to improve this process, it's important for schools to be transparent and open with their students, said Kay Glass, director of Forum and Education Abroad, an organization that establishes standards for study abroad practices.
Glass said there is nothing inherently wrong with free trips, but the information needs to be disclosed.
"If you're making important decisions on campus, students need to be aware of that," Glass said.
Marquette uses affiliated programs with providers including the School for International Training and Arcadia University.
"We have not been involved with any kickback schemes," said Kristen Michelson, study abroad coordinator from the Office of International Education at Marquette.
Jamshid Hosseini, director of international business and study abroad programs, echoed Michelson.
He also said the College of Business Administration has stayed away from third party providers because they operate in a for-profit manner.
"I have every confidence that my colleagues at Marquette have nothing to hide," Hosseini said. "For us, finances are very much secondary when it comes to dealing with our students."