Affordability and feasibility: Study abroad goals for the Whitworth 2021 academic vision

by Emma Maple | Staff Writer

Editorial board note:

“As Whitworth 2021, a visionary plan launched by the university in 2011, comes to a close this year, The Whitworthian is looking at the plan’s eight goals. Through a variety of articles in the arts and culture, news and opinions sections, The Whitworthian team will be unpacking a view of what Whitworth 2021 set out to accomplish and which of those criterion were met.”

 Goal 3: Prepare Whitworth students to be global citizens.

This goal has three main objectives: increase student participation in study abroad programs from 43% to 70%, increase study-abroad opportunities and establish a continual assessment of the study-abroad programs.

Nicholas McKinney, who has served as the director of the Office of International Education since 2019, says that the importance of this goal is supported by “a plethora of research.” He says that students who were part of these experiences experience greater retention rates through graduation, show a greater connection to their academic area and are twice as likely to be accepted by their top-choice graduate schools. Forbes agrees, stating that the skills learned by study-abroad opportunities can have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to gain employment.

But regardless of whether this is important and valuable to Whitworth students, we must take into consideration the feasibility of this goal. When I look at Goal 3, two key problems stand out: affordability and the impact of COVID.

As a student who relies heavily on financial aid to support myself through college, studying abroad seems like an educational dream – not a necessity. Participating in term or semester-long faculty-led programs sounds wonderful, but it is unlikely to be a reality, especially given the fact that I need to find out how to fund the price raises that come with every year of Whitworth education (To learn more about that, read this Whitworthian article). This could be an important concern for Whitworth students who attend on financial aid, a number that has increased almost every year since this plan was implemented.

Data provided by Traci Stensland, Assistant Vice President of Student Financial Services, note that the current academic year is incomplete.

Whitworth didn’t completely ignore the financial factors that play into study abroad. Key Performance Indicator 3.1.4 was to establish annual support of at least $200,000 for student study abroad opportunities by 2021, and this goal was decidedly not met.

Rather than an annual support of $200,000, Whitworth reeled in average annual support of $35,000– $165,000 short of their goal. This means students who depend on financial aid to afford college probably won’t be able to count on much funding from the school – and almost certainly won’t be able to consider faculty-led study abroad programs, where almost 0% of the costs can be covered by Whitworth financial aid.

There are a few other sources of study abroad travel, which may be feasible for students struggling with finances. KPI 3.1.2 says that it hopes to increase student participation in ISEP study abroad programs by 50 per year. While this KPI was also not met, as Whitworth achieved 34 students per year rather than 50, ISEP programs may be a more affordable option. Often governmental and Whitworth-provided financial aid will apply to these programs, and while it might not cover additional costs such as plane tickets, it might be worth considering.

Whitworth did accomplish KPI 3.1.1 (to increase semester-long program offerings in international locations), KPI 3.1.5 (to create a formal re-entry program for study away students), KPI 3.2.1 (employ a professional international visitor at least once every other year), KPI 3.3.1 (develop a study-abroad assessment plan by 2018) and KPI 3.3.2 (update taxonomy for tracking study-abroad programs).

The KPI that weren’t achieved seem to be in large due to the global pandemic that began last year. McKinney said that COVID-19 forced the school to cancel or suspend four terms of study abroad programs, from Spring 2020-21. KPI 3.1.1 aimed at increasing undergraduate student participation in study abroad to 60%. This was not achieved, although they got close at 53.8%. The numbers said that only 283 students participated in study abroad programs in 2020 even though projections without COVID put it at 347 students. If COVID had not happened, this may have been another KPI marked “complete”.

KPI 3.2.2-a, which sought to increase the number of international students to 100, was another goal that came close to being accomplished but failed right at the end.

Whitworth didn’t completely ignore the financial factors that play into study abroad. Key Performance Indicator 3.1.4 was to establish annual support of at least $200,000 for student study abroad opportunities by 2021, and this goal was decidedly not met.

Rather than an annual support of $200,000, Whitworth reeled in average annual support of $35,000– $165,000 short of their goal. This means students who depend on financial aid to afford college probably won’t be able to count on much funding from the school – and almost certainly won’t be able to consider faculty-led study abroad programs, where almost 0% of the costs can be covered by Whitworth financial aid.

There are a few other sources of study abroad travel, which may be feasible for students struggling with finances. KPI 3.1.2 says that it hopes to increase student participation in ISEP study abroad programs by 50 per year. While this KPI was also not met, as Whitworth achieved 34 students per year rather than 50, ISEP programs may be a more affordable option. Often governmental and Whitworth-provided financial aid will apply to these programs, and while it might not cover additional costs such as plane tickets, it might be worth considering.

Whitworth did accomplish KPI 3.1.1 (to increase semester-long program offerings in international locations), KPI 3.1.5 (to create a formal re-entry program for study away students), KPI 3.2.1 (employ a professional international visitor at least once every other year), KPI 3.3.1 (develop a study-abroad assessment plan by 2018) and KPI 3.3.2 (update taxonomy for tracking study-abroad programs).

The KPI that weren’t achieved seem to be in large due to the global pandemic that began last year. McKinney said that COVID-19 forced the school to cancel or suspend four terms of study abroad programs, from Spring 2020-21. KPI 3.1.1 aimed at increasing undergraduate student participation in study abroad to 60%. This was not achieved, although they got close at 53.8%. The numbers said that only 283 students participated in study abroad programs in 2020 even though projections without COVID put it at 347 students. If COVID had not happened, this may have been another KPI marked “complete”.

KPI 3.2.2-a, which sought to increase the number of international students to 100, was another goal that came close to being accomplished but failed right at the end.

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