Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Discussion: Requiring Study Abroad?

The February online poll at Smart Study Abroad asked readers to consider whether study abroad ought to be a required component of a college education. The results: 75 percent said it should be, and 25 percent said “maybe”.

Not one reader said that study abroad shouldn’t be required.

Yet study abroad is still an optional part of a undergraduate experience at the vast majority of institutions, and many on and off campus see it as an add-on that can be cut if cost or other factors intervene. Still, a few schools are requiring some kind of off-campus experience:
  • Goucher College in Maryland is one of a very few U.S. schools to absolutely require some time out of the country for its students. The program, in place since 2006, has been a recruiting plus for Goucher, officials there say.
  • As we noted in last week’s Smart Study Abroad podcast, Arcadia University in Pennsylvania requires its students to either go abroad or study off-campus at another domestic site.
  • And, as reported last week at Inside Higher Education, another Pennsylvania institution, Susquehanna University, will require that its students complete a reflection course on a meaningful off-campus experience as a condition of graduation. Susquehanna will permit its students to complete the requirement based on travel internationally or domestically, but it’s beefing up options for students to go abroad.
These are institutions of differing levels of prestige that draw students from varying economic and social backgrounds. They’ve all committed to some form of internationalization of their campuses and have taken on considerable risks in doing so.

For Goucher and Arcadia, the initiatives have paid big dividends. The jury will soon convene as to whether it will work for Susquehanna.

This forms an opportunity for discussion among Smart Study Abroad readers: 
  • What are the obstacles to adding a study abroad requirement? Certainly, economics is one, but are there others — cultural, social, philosophical?
  • The Lincoln Commission has set a goal of having 1 million U.S. college students abroad every year by 2015. Is this a reachable goal?
  • How can study abroad advocates better sell the idea that study abroad is essential and not just a frill in a cost-conscious time?
Click on the comments button below this post to add your thoughts.

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