Discourse / Editorials / Featured / March 8, 2017

Thoughts from the Embers: Transparency needed between study abroad administrators and students

News recently came out that three of Knox’s popular study abroad programs, based in Buenos Aires, Barcelona and Besançon (frequently known as the “3 B’s”), will be undergoing changes starting this year. While the Besançon and Buenos Aires programs have been suspended for the 2017-18 school year, the Barcelona program is being handed over to CEA, an outside study abroad organization. The school has said that with both Besançon and Buenos Aires programs the changes come down to enrollment.

The Buenos Aires program had three applicants come Feb. 1 and after the deadline had passed, six more students expressed interest in the program, which would bring the total number of applicants up to nine. The school has denied students the ability to apply after the deadline, which has been flexible in the past to account for students still figuring out their study abroad plans. This raises the question — why this year?

Something we find most concerning is the lack of communication between the school and students and faculty when it came to making these decisions. Students who had been banking on going to Besanon for the 2017-18 school year were only told about its cancellation after approaching French professors to ask about the program. If the college is going to cut several immersion programs which prove to be vital to language majors, more notice to the student body that this was a possibility should have been given. Additionally, communication with students and involved faculty about why programs are being suspended, changed or cut should be provided well in advance.

It makes sense that the college could not necessarily announce these changes prior to the Feb. 1 deadline, as the number of students who would apply were not known. However, advance notice from the college about this being a possibility would have been helpful for students considering plans for next year and might have encouraged students to apply more quickly.

While we believe the college has a responsibility to the students body’s overall best academic experience and immersion study abroad programs are vital to many students’ academic careers, we also understand where the administration is coming from.

From a financial point-of-view, the college has a strong point in favor of cutting programs if enrollment is not up to what is needed. However, students in the department of Modern Languages have reported that they did not know of the existence of some of these programs. This brings up the question of whether the college is not pushing the 3 B programs enough. The enrollment could certainly be tied to the college advertising these specific programs.

Students need to recognize that it is not financially sustainable for the college to run these programs at a loss if they do not have the numbers to do otherwise. Even though students that travel on these programs have incredible experiences, the college needs to focus on what will be best for the majority of students financially rather than a small group. If the majority of students are already looking to study abroad through outside organizations, it becomes difficult for Knox to continue to work on its own.

Additionally, the college could seek other options to make these programs viable. Alumni of the programs might be interested in donating to make the study abroad programs they participated in during their years at Knox continue to be an option for current students. The programs could also be evaluated to see if there are portions that could be limited or cut in order to make them possible, but less expensive. The 3 B’s are uniquely Knox programs and draw students to the college, it would be a shame to lose them if we don’t have to.

Discussions on this situation clearly need to continue, especially now that professors have found more students interested in studying abroad.

 

TKS Editorial Board

Tags:  barcelona besancon buenos aires discourse editorial study abroad thoughts from the embers

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