Beginning in Fall 2019, the Center for Global Education will implement a new study abroad billing method that was deliberated on for over a year.
Under the billing change, students will pay their study abroad program directly for room and board costs rather than paying Wheaton’s room and board fees to as was the policy in the past. Additionally, Global Ed will no longer cover flight expenses, nor will they charge the $500 study abroad fee. “In order to ensure that all students are properly covered Wheaton will pay for international health insurance for all students,” Gretchen Young, Dean of Global Ed, said.
The committee responsible for these decisions included members of the President’s Council, the Finance Office and Global Ed. Members of the Board of Trustees encouraged the conversation that would result in the significant transformation of Global Ed’s billing methods and processes. Dean Young said that members of the President’s Council felt that there was a need for a billing change because they were “looking at the budget as a whole.”
Ultimately, motivations for this billing change derived from various avenues. Meghan Kass, both Assistant Vice President for Finance and Controller, said part of the decision was “to be more in line with our peers.”
Out of the 21 academic institutions in the Northeast that Wheaton compares itself to, ten do not charge a study abroad fee, while only four charge tuition and comprehensive fees, which include room and board.
With this billing change now “you get what you pay for,” said Dean Young, referring to the fact that the previous billing method was not equitable for all study abroad programs.
To illustrate the changes to the billing process, Dean Young wrote in an email, “under the former billing structure, for example, students paid Wheaton room charges to attend BU London and lived in a flat in one of the best neighborhoods in London, [while] students who went to SIT Madagascar lived in a homestay, which may or may not have had running water but paid the same amount [as the student living in a flat in London].
Alida Gomez, the Associate Director of Global Ed, said that another reason for the billing change was that it would provide students with the opportunity to learn how to make some of the important, and sometimes difficult, decisions that come along with organizing international travel arrangements.
Melanie Gardiner ’21, who began organizing her study abroad plans during her freshman year, said, “I was really looking forward to studying abroad.” Gardiner said she found out about the new billing method during an appointment she had with Gomez. “I know people that still don’t know that Global Ed is not paying for flights and room and board,” Gardiner said.
Both Gomez and Kass highlighted the fact that flight coverage was a feature unique to Wheaton only. Dean Young wrote in an email, “it looks like we would spend approximately $240,000 per academic year on flights.”
During the 2017-18 academic year, 58 students studied abroad and paid Wheaton for room and board accommodations, from which the institution gained a net revenue of $13,642.
Last year, to better align itself with other academic institutions, Global Ed began charging $50 to all schools and programs that participate in the annual study abroad fair. Global Ed utilized the funds collected to “support students going abroad,” but now the funds are being used “specifically for visa scholarships,” said Gomez.
The online scholarship application states that the four study-abroad awards that Wheaton offers are also made available through “various generous sources, including alumni and international partner universities.”
To qualify for a scholarship, students are required to attend at least one workshop on financial aid and demonstrate that they have applied to other scholarships.
Wheaton Edge funding will also be available to students that commit to any of the approved BU programs, which have a significant internship component.
Gomez intends to host two to three workshops on financial aid every semester to encourage students to think about applying to scholarships early. Previously, Gomez would host one each semester.
Dean Young said that Global Ed, and the institution, are committed to “making study abroad financially viable for every single student.”