Students scramble to find funds to pay for study abroad after scholarships are retracted

Students preparing to study abroad in the coming semesters were blindsided this fall by a change to the school’s study abroad funding policy: students are no longer able use their New College scholarships to offset study abroad costs.

“They previously told me I could use my NCF scholarships and everything would be fine,” second-year Hailey McGleam, with an Area of Concentration (AOC) in Chinese Language and Culture and Environmental Studies, said. “Over the summer I planned everything out and paid my non-refundable $100 application fee. Then school started, and a month in I was told to meet with the Financial Aid Office. They told me that I couldn’t use any of my scholarships at all. This is important because I am an [financially] independent student and don’t have someone who’s going to pay for my stuff.”

The Financial Aid Office was unable to comment by the time this story went to print.

“I wasn’t involved in the process and only found out about the changes that had been made over the summer after the semester began,” Assistant Director of Study Abroad and National Student Exchange (NSE) Coordinator Florence Zamsky said. “Study abroad is expensive and making less aid available to students is not helping. If anything, it’s even more important than before for students to plan early financially. So I recommend students come and talk to me during their first year because it can be a challenge to make study abroad fit within your course of study, and it usually is also a challenge to be able to afford it.”

According to the 2018-2019 Undergraduate General Catalog, all students with AOCs in International and Area Studies, Caribbean and Latin American Studies, East Asian Studies and European Studies are required to study abroad for a semester or summer.

“A full semester is preferable,” reads the catalog. “In unusual circumstances, another significant multicultural experience may be substituted for this requirement upon approval of the International Studies Committee and the student’s own baccalaureate committee.”

For all students with a slash or joint AOC in these fields, the catalog states study abroad is “highly recommended.”

“My understanding is that for those students who pay tuition to New College to go off-campus, say with NSE in the United States or abroad, then the scholarship changes don’t affect them,” Zamsky said. “But if they’re paying tuition to another institution or a third-party provider, then their institutional aid is not available to them anymore.”

With such immersive and expensive programs being required or strongly recommended for certain fields, and funding that was guaranteed being retroactively taken away, many students are unsure of how to move forward.

“I went to the Financial Aid Office two weeks ago to check in, because last year they told me I was going to get my aid, and I didn’t want to worry about having to apply to outside scholarships,” third-year Lili Benitez, Environmental Studies and Spanish Language and Literature AOC, stated. “They said the rules had changed and that I couldn’t get my aid anymore. Then I talked to Florence Zamsky, and she’s trying to help me see if I can get grandfathered in under the old system because I had already paid my deposit and everything for my chosen program.”

According to McGleam, whose backup plan is to work for as many hours as she can until the 2019-2020 school year, one option is to apply to the Boren Scholarship. In this case, a student can be given a $20,000 scholarship in exchange for working for the U.S. federal government for at least a year after graduation.

“[Due to these changes] I can only use my Pell Grant and my student loans. But the thing is, I wouldn’t be getting a Pell Grant if I didn’t need support,” McGleam said. “I think I get about $14,000 in scholarships from the school aside from that, so it’s pretty hefty what I have to make up for.”

Additionally, President Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have significantly lowered the amount of funding available to students through the federal Pell Grant.

“Not only is this going to hurt students in Chinese Studies and other International Studies programs, but it’s going to hurt the departments because they’re going to have students who shy away because they know that they can’t afford to study abroad,” McGleam said. “Even if it isn’t a New College policy and it comes down from the state, they didn’t tell anybody. There was zero communication. It’s shady.”

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