Single deadline for study abroad leads to higher rate of spring cancellations

This year’s junior class did not quite meet the record set by the high number of students studying abroad last year, but they sure came close: 126 students are currently abroad and 150 are scheduled to head off campus in the spring.

Last year saw an additional 50 students studying abroad, reaching an all-time high of 326 students in one year. According to Director of the International Center Paul Nelson, this record was set for a number of reasons.

“Last year’s high numbers were caused primarily by two factors: the largest junior class in college history and 15 seniors studying abroad,” Nelson wrote in an email.

Usually, he said, only one-third as many seniors go abroad. But the junior class met its mark, remaining consistent with long-term enrollment patterns. Roughly 55 percent of each graduating class studies abroad sometime while enrolled at Macalester.

The number of students who study abroad has financial consequences for the college, primarily because the financial aid of domestic students is applied to their semesters abroad. For every student with financial aid who enrolls in a program abroad, the school has to cover the gap between that program’s cost and the student’s expected family contribution.

“Fewer students going abroad this academic year reduces the overall cost,” Nelson wrote.

As a result, the International Center had to ask 25 of the 190 students who applied to study abroad in the spring to switch to the fall semester. In an interview with The Mac Weekly last semester, Nelson said a committee was formed to evaluate the justifications students provided in their proposal. Students whose program deadlines for the fall semester had already passed were given an advantage in the process.

Spring Cancellations

Since then, around 15 students have decided not to go abroad next semester. According to numbers from March, only one student cancelled their study abroad plans for the current semester. In addition to making the necessary changes last semester, the International Center also planned for these cancellations.

“Under the single annual deadline system, students who aren’t certain about studying abroad need to submit a proposal just to keep their options open,” Nelson wrote. “It has been eight months since the last set of proposals came in, and a lot can happen in that time.”

The single annual deadline system requires that all students considering study away turn in a proposal by mid-March of the prior academic year declaring their intention to leave campus. This is a fairly new system, implemented two years ago, and it is more prone to spring cancellations than was the old system.

“In the old days students who wanted to study abroad in spring of their junior year made their proposals in October and got their approvals in November,” Nelson wrote. “People had more time to think it over beforehand and there wasn’t much time to change their mind or for other events to intervene afterward.”