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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Education abroad programs nationwide buckling under pressure from economic crisis

Despite economic crisis and struggling study abroad programs across the nation, enrollment in UC Davis’ quarter and summer abroad programs increased by 1.1 percent in the 2008-2009 school year. The UC-wide Education Abroad Program (EAP) is seeing similar enrollment trends and does not seem to suffer from the crisis.

A survey conducted by the Forum on Education Abroad on the impact of the global economic crisis on education abroad from Aug. 24 to Sept. 4, 2009 reported that the economic crisis negatively affected 66 percent of the 165 university respondents.

According to the Forum’s survey operating budgets, staff travel, conference attendance, staff and student scholarships were the areas most likely to receive slashes in budget. The survey also revealed that across the global recession hit nation US-based education abroad provider organizations and public universities the hardest and these programs see the biggest decrease in student enrollment.

Education Abroad Center Assistant Director Zak Frieders suspects that the economic crisis is encouraging rather than deterring student enrollment in education abroad programs.

“So many students are looking into a tough market when they graduate and competing with other graduates. I think students are looking to gain more experience through study abroad,” Frieders said. “It might cost them a little bit more now, but it will give them a competitive edge on the job market.”

Three programs were recently removed from EAP due to low enrollment in sites where similar programs existed nearby. Gottingen, Germany, La Concepción, Chile and Renault, France programs were closed and consolidated with pre-existing nearby EAP centers. Two new programs in Israel and Buenos Aires were opened this year based on high-demand for the regions.

EAP saw a 1.6 percent increase in overall student participation based on 2008-2009 enrollment numbers with UC Santa Barbara leading in student participation.

“There is no doubt that employers see the advantages of students with study abroad experiences,” said EAP Senior Research Analyst Gordon Schaeffer.

Schaeffer, however, does not relate an increase in EAP participation with the economic environment or job market.

“My guess is that this growth rate is not much different from the recent growth in undergraduate enrollment in the UC system,” Schaeffer said.

Both the Forum on Education Abroad survey and UC trends indicate that shorter-term programs are more popular with students; this trend also includes students who go abroad for a year but may spend each semester in a different country.

The 1.1 percent gain in UCD participation in EAC is largely due to the 8 percent increase in summer abroad participants between 2008 and 2009. Summer and quarter abroad programs at UC Davis are run by the EAC and are contingent on the availability of professors to continue leading these programs.

By and large, the College of Letters and Science sends the most students on study abroad program, accounting for 65 percent of all Aggies. Engineering and Biological Science students have the fewest participants, comprising of 6 and 11 percent respectively.

“The culture of study abroad doesn’t exist in these majors,” Frieders said. “We are such a heavy science school, we [need to] tap into these fields.”

To accommodate these non-Letters and Science students, EAC is working with the departments to integrate study-abroad opportunities within the majors.

GABRIELLE GROW can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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