Economic downturn has little effect on study abroad

By Katie Havranek

The number of Macalester students traveling abroad in the fall will be down at least 20 percent according to Study Abroad Coordinator Paul Nelson.– In fall 2008 Macalester sent 95 students abroad while only 80 students are expected to travel abroad in the fall of 2009. The study abroad office faults the suffering economy.”I personally was surprised by the reduction in demand because the number of appointments and interest we had was undiminished from pervious semesters,” Nelson said.

The economic downturn seems to be the only reason for the decrease in demand, though there is no concrete evidence because those who do not choose to study abroad do not inform the study abroad office of the reasons for their decision, according to Nelson.

“We are in a bit of a ‘wait and see’ what will happen with the economy,” Nelson said, “I think that with more optimism in the economy, the more optimism for study abroad.”

However, Macalester students are generally more interested in traveling abroad in the spring and those numbers will not be in until next October.

Nelson said that the true test is if the decrease in students traveling abroad is a short term change or an enduring one will be if the number of students traveling abroad does not improve in the spring.

“I would say if this trend persists over a year or longer it may affect Macalester’s image,” Nelson said, “but I don’t think we’re alone in this–price freezes and price reductions tell us that other study abroad programs are seeing what we are–a reduction in demand.”

Nelson also said that money was a discussion topic in more meetings about study abroad this fall though Macalester tuition covers travel abroad and living expenses are a relatively small portion of the money spent on study abroad.

“Macalester’s financial aid programs haven’t changed and they support you really well,” said Brian Dunlap ’11 who is traveling abroad in the fall. “I couldn’t go to Moscow because it would be too expensive to live there so I am going to a rural area in Russia-Yaroslavio.”

Nelson said that students are choosing to go abroad to less expensive locations in Latin America, Africa, and other cities in the United States.

“The financial crisis did not factor into my decision because Macalester covers the tuition of the program,” Goodwin said, “but I’m going to India, not Europe.