Students planning to enroll in non-Duke study abroad programs this fall are discovering that their trips will cost $1,500 more due to a new University fee.
The Board of Trustees tentatively approved the $1,500 fee in December to help defray administrative costs for students in non-Duke programs. The trustees are scheduled to finalize the fee at their May meeting. It would go into effect fall semester.
Students enrolled in University-administered programs in Berlin, China, France, Spain, Russia, Austria and the United Kingdom will not be required to pay the fee, but the more than 80 Duke-approved and Duke-associated programs would require students to pay the extra money.
"It is intended to reflect realistically what it costs the University for students to go abroad on non-Duke programs," said President Nan Keohane.
Costs include funding a study-abroad library, offering counselling for students planning to travel and arranging for course registration from abroad, said Christa Johns, assistant dean for study abroad.
In addition, the University allows students to use Duke-granted financial aid to pay for non-Duke programs.
"Essentially Duke students studying on Duke programs and paying Duke tuition have underwritten the administrative costs for those students who have studied on non-Duke programs," Johns said.
Of about 400 students studying abroad this year, 55 percent are in non-Duke programs.
Some students are critical of the new fee.
"It doesn't cost $1,500 to process someone's transfer credits," said Trinity sophomore Casey Woods, president of the comparative area studies majors' union. "The University is looking for another way to make more money."
Roy Weintraub, acting dean of the faculty of Arts and Sciences, said the new fee parallels long-standing policies at other schools.
"We were really out of step with what other universities do," Weintraub said.
Surveying other schools, administrators found that most either require students to pay their home university's tuition, refuse to give credit for non-university programs or charge a fee for services, he said.
Trustee Herman Postma criticized the plan at the board's December meeting.
As the University tries to internationalize campus life, the fee may discourage some students from studying abroad, Postma said.
"Any time we throw up an obstacle, it impedes what we are trying to do," he said Wednesday. "$1,500 was a disincentive, not an incentive to go."
Trinity senior Stephanie Bailenson said the fee would have made her trip last semester too expensive. Bailenson spent the fall in the Caribbean studying coral reefs to prepare for a career in marine biology.
Other students say the fee would not have affected their study abroad plans. "For me, I'm pretty financially well off, so it wasn't really a factor," said Trinity junior Darren LaVerne, who spent the fall in a non-Duke program in England. "I think I would have gone anyway."
Administrators say the $1,500 fee is not prohibitive. "In most instances, even with the $1,500 fee, [non-Duke programs] are cheaper than studying at Duke," Johns said.
Some students said the fee is unfair because the University does not offer a program in every country. The University offers no semester-long programs in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America or Australia, for example.
"It would be rather selfish of the University to require students to pay a fee if the University does not offer a program in an area in which students are interested," said Trinity junior Mark Lorey, who studied in Kenya last semester through St. Lawrence University.