Students respond to the study elsewhere fee

Ballou Hall is here pictured on April 20, 2018. Rachel Hartman / The Tufts Daily

Shannon Lee, a rising junior, wrote a Facebook post on the Tufts Class of 2020 page that sparked student interest in the study elsewhere fee, a $1,200 fee that applies to all students who choose to study a non-Tufts program. Lee stated that she was not aware of the fee until she “stumbled” upon it on the Tufts study abroad website.

[A] Study Elsewhere fee of $1200 (beginning in the 2018-19 academic year) will be assessed at the time your leave is processed (the same fee is assessed whether a student is on a ‘Non-Tufts Study Abroad’ leave of absence or on a domestic ‘Study Elsewhere’ leave of absence),” according to the website.

Lee initially thought that the wording on the website implied that the study elsewhere fee was new for the 2018–2019 school year.

“To me, it seemed like a new fee because [the website] said starting this academic year there will be a study elsewhere fee of $1,200,” Lee said.

Programs Abroad Director Sheila Bayne clarified that the study elsewhere fee dates back to 1981. She also explained why there is a study elsewhere fee, a fee that applies to all students who choose to study at any university other than Tufts.

“The study elsewhere fee is not new and has been implemented since 1981 … It serves to cover a portion of the costs involved in providing administrative and advising support to approximately 300 students who choose to study abroad each year on non-Tufts programs … There are administrative costs involved in processing applications, recommendations, leaves of absence and transfer credit petitions for students studying on non-Tufts programs,” Bayne explained in an email to the Daily.

Lee explained that while the study elsewhere fee is not a financial burden for her, the fee may be a burden for students who are left out of the conversation on the topic of socioeconomic diversity on campus, particularly students who fall neither in the bottom 40 or top 40 percent.

“This goes along with the conversation we have around campus on socioeconomic diversity … which is that middle-income students that are not [considered] low-income enough to get a lot of financial aid, but [also] not [considered] high income to be able afford college … [these students] are kind of left out of the conversation,” Lee said.

Ashley Smith, a rising senior currently studying abroad in a non-Tufts program in Italy, explained that most non-Tufts programs cost less than the cost to attend Tufts.

“Luckily most programs do cost less than Tufts tuition. My program, for example, costs less than a semester at Tufts including the fee,” Smith wrote in an email to the Daily. “Still though, Tufts makes Tufts programs a lot more accessible than non-Tufts programs for students on financial aid because they are very limited by cost in the programs they can choose.”

Bayne also explained that while the study elsewhere fee is waived for students on financial aid, financial aid cannot be transferred to non-Tufts programs.

“Students on financial aid are not charged the fee. Students who attend a non-Tufts program are not charged Tufts tuition; therefore, Tufts financial aid does not transfer to non-Tufts programs,” Bayne said.

Smith noted that at first, she did not understand what the study elsewhere fee was for. Now that Smith is abroad, however, she feels that the fee is worth it.

“To be honest, when I paid for the fee I didn’t completely understand what I was paying for,” Smith said. “I have submitted a lot of classes for transfer credit request, to find out what class they would equate it to and therefore what credits I would get … I have … been in touch with Tufts administration a lot, and I feel like I’ve been well-supported which makes me feel like the fee is worth it.”

Bayne explained that the fee is a $1,000 for students studying elsewhere for the 2017–2018 school year and now, the fee is $1,200 for students in the 2018–2019 school year. When asked why the fee was raised, Bayne said that the fee is set by the budget office.

Lee noted that she found no explanation for why the fee was raised.  

“I think it is important, always, … whenever a cost is increased, to explain why the cost increased,” Lee said.

Alexa Reilly, a rising senior studying abroad in a non-Tufts program in Ecuador, told the Daily in an email that while she was exempt from the study elsewhere fee, the Tufts study abroad website does not provide a clear explanation as to why there is such a fee.

I think the reason for the fee could be made clearer. On the website, it just says ‘administrative fees.’ As I went through the process of applying for abroad programs, I received more information through emails, pre-departure meetings and conversations with faculty,” Reilly said.

Reilly also emphasized that this fee can place a financial burden on some students and requested that the Tufts administration provide more information about cost increases for study abroad.

“There are people who don’t receive financial aid but also can’t afford to pay an extra $1200 … I think that’s a huge amount of money to ask of students and their families without providing clear and easily accessible reasoning,” Reilly said. “I want more information about the specific costs that are incurred when approving abroad programs, transferring credits, etc. Since any price increase could be a financial burden to students, Tufts should be much more transparent.”

Reilly explained that in her first year at Tufts, she noticed that the website clearly stated that students on financial aid were exempt from the study elsewhere fee. Reilly revisited the website in her junior year and the website no longer stated that students on financial aid were exempted from the fee. The website was later updated to reflect this exemption, Reilly said.

“It was important to me to have this exemption clearly stated on the website because I wouldn’t be able to stay abroad if I had to pay an extra $1000-$1200, and I was pretty concerned when I was briefly unsure whether I was exempt, considering I’d been planning to do so since freshman year,” Reilly said.

Bayne responded that the policy stating that the fee is waived for students on need-based financial aid has not changed.

“We are sorry that a student was briefly unsure about that policy,” Bayne said in an email. “We will update the wording on the website to make it clear that the study elsewhere fee, which is $1,200 for students going abroad in 2018-19 but does not apply to students on need-based financial aid, is not a new fee.”

Bayne also clarified that many other universities also administer a study elsewhere fee. She also explained that the fee allows for continued support from the Tufts administration for students who are abroad. 

“Some kind of administrative fee for study elsewhere is a fairly standard procedure for U.S. colleges and universities. Some charge less; most charge more, some universities as high as $3,000 or more … Tufts has a very generous policy of permitting transfer of credit from outside institutions … The administrative fee should be seen as helping to make this option possible,” Bayne said.


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