Study Abroad is the new student loans

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hgfWe noticed this article yesterday, but in case you didn’t, here’s the bit that might have to do with why it’s hard getting your study abroad program approved:

“At many campuses, study abroad programs are run by multiple companies and nonprofit institutes that offer colleges generous perks to sign up students: free and subsidized travel overseas for officials, back-office services to defray operating expenses, stipends to market the programs to students, unpaid membership on advisory councils and boards, and even cash bonuses and commissions on student-paid fees. This money generally goes directly to colleges, not always to the students who take the trips.

Kathleen McDermott, director of global programs for liberal arts undergraduates at Columbia, said trips subsidized by outside providers posed no conflict because “our business is to evaluate programs…

Since 1998, Dr. McDermott said she had taken six such trips: one to Argentina and Chile, another to Uganda and Tanzania, and visits to Cuba, western China, Jordan and Morocco. The trips were sponsored, she said, by various providers.

The Butler institute sponsored one of Dr. McDermott’s trips; Columbia, along with about 120 other institutions, is a member of the its national advisory council.”

We’re not saying Columbia bureaucracy could ever be corrupt or anything, but we can’t help wondering whether it’s harder than necessary to study where you want. If you’ve got stories, you know the address: 



  1. scandal

    Down with Dean McD!!!

  2. SHAME!!!


    CU study abroad should have more offerings and shouldn't be limited to study abroad companies commercializing foreign education for profit.

    maybe this is why such a small percentage of CU kids study abroad?

    red rum!

  3. corruption

    and also, is it just me or does columbia face a good deal more corruption than usual for a school with a good academic reputation to fool around with?

    crack down on the bureaucracy!

  4. The kid

    I read this article in the Times, I'm reading it again here, and I'm still not sure I get why this story is such a story. If I'm Dean McDermott, I'm not doing my job if I don't go on the trips that I'm offering students or investigating. The limited offerings by Columbia are one ridiculous thing, but taking trips? Also of note: the article states she has taken a trip to Cuba, which Columbia does not offer as a study abroad possibility.

  5. Chris

    Unfortunately, this is normal in the real world. Typically, it happens in industries where a few people are the gatekeepers who have strong influence over where a disproportionate amount of money goes. They get gourmet dinners, fancy trips, and sometimes swimming pools installed in their backyards.

    The advertising industry, pharmaceuticals, and now study abroad. And maybe one or two politicians.

    The problem goes away once the universities stop playing gatekeeper.

    To quote:

    Critics say that these and similar arrangements, which are seldom disclosed, typically limit student options and drive up prices for gaining international credentials compared with the most economical alternative — enrolling directly in a foreign university, paying generally lower tuition to that institution and having the credits transferred. Some campuses require students to use one of several affiliated providers, but some even have exclusive arrangements with study-abroad agents, further limiting options.

  6. the thing is

    you have to pay columbia tuition regardless so it doesn't really matter what company you use and how much the program costs.

  7. Another problem  

    One problem that I had that made it very difficult to arrange study abroad at Columbia is the way that you pay for it. For instance, I was going to go to a University where tuition and housing and fees were all under $13,000. However, Columbia would have made me pay Columbia tuition rate AND put up front the full amount in cash. SOmetime in the summer, I would get reimbursed for the money I spent on housing, as well as the difference between CU tuition and foreign tuition/housing/fees. Problem: I couldn't afford to put up housing, deposits, etc right away, and Columbia refused to help me out. Study abroad was therefore not possible for me. *tear (filled with irony, of course)

    • *tearing up2*

      Too bad, poor.

    • huh?

      That was kinda dumb. As an individual (even with no help from family) you could easily have gotten a reasonable personal loan for a few months to a year, and probably without collateral because you're a student at a university that's likely to provide you with earning power. And if you're really so poor that the interest on a loan of that size would be prohibitive, why the hell didn't you have any financial aid?

      Also, I agree that this is rather a non-story. The main point at the end of the article is that there are all kinds of practical concerns that justify these study abroad perks, the questionable thing is when Columbia refuses to accept transfer credits from peer universities. But then again, allowing students to complete part of their education at a cheaper school basically amounts to giving them a discount off the price of attending. Which is fine, but not necessarily affordable.

  8. study abroad alum

    I was forced to do the Butler program even though the school allowed direct enrollment into the universities. Columbia refunds the difference between our tuition and the abroad schools tuition. If I was allowed to direct enroll it would have saved me thousands of dollars

  9. wtf  

    Gay-bashing? Sooooo 1998. Seriously, why don't you just turn on the Rosie O'Donnell show, put a butterfly clip in your hair, and call your best friend on your Nokia with the panda bear faceplate to discuss trying to get on TRL to see the Backstreet Boys.'

    About the matter AT HAND, it happens all over the school. Admissions officers who read applications from Costa Rica and Bermuda visit those areas every year to inform themselves about the students there. Department heads get PAID to go to academic conferences and presentations all over the world. Part of the job.


  10. Gurgle

    I gotta say, Uganda, Western China, Ghana, Tanzania, Jordan--those places are utter shit-holes. These aren't pleasure cruises, trust me. If she's taking bribes then she's not very good at it.

    • Trust you?

      I'm curious. How do you know those places are all "shitholes" when you obviously have never been?

      • Because

        Faggy shallot, I'm not some poor like you. I've been to all of those places and I'll tell you--THEY SUCK. But you knew this already, I'm sure. Ghana, Uganda, etc. is no paradise. This should come as no surprise to you; I hope. Center of slave trade, full of AIDS-ridden orphans

        • dude

          23 / 14 / 9 : you're an asswhole. congratulations on your parents' money and on being an ignorant fuck. you're gonna get your ass kicked if and when you make it to the real world

          • Real World

            Here's a lesson on how the real world works, dick-head--> MY DAD GOT ME A JOB RUNNING A FUCKING NGO, bossing little wanna-be Angelina Jolies like you around.

          • Real World

            The real world, my friend, is that ultimately Daddy's money will only get you so far. Look at the CEO's of all the big hedge funds & I-banks. John Mack's dad was a door-to-door salesman. He grew up lower-middle class, busted his ass to get to Duke, excelled, busted his ass at Morgan Stanley, and is now their CEO. Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman got to Harvard on financial aid. The overwhelming majority of CEOs on the street grew up middle class & worked their way up on pure merit & grit. So enjoy the lines of coke, daddy's condos, St. A's parties, and roofie-ing 14yr olds while you can, because Wall Street natural selection will weed out your ass faster than you can say "douchebag".

          • I don't

            I don't have to run a hedge fund, my money is in a hedge fund. I will never need money.

            I work at a place where I get to boss around a room full of hot, naive pussy.

            Have fun in the 'real world' asshole. I'm up here looking down on your disgusting striving

        • #18

          I thought you were merely a lazy researcher, but it appears you are a liar and an idiot as well. I can't speak for Ghana and Uganda, but as someone who has actually been to Western China several times, I can assure the rest of the readers that it is a pleasant place to vacation. Moreover, if you knew Ghana and Uganda and Tanzania were such terrible places, why did you visit in the first place? Oh right, I forgot, you're a lying fool.

  11. when

    i want to study a broad i just go to barnard.

  12. Anonymous

    "Columbia refunds the difference between our tuition and the abroad schools tuition."

    Not in my experience- on my program, the difference between Columbia's tuition and the program's was nearly 10K, none of which I ever got back. The European students studying abroad with me had it better- they were allowed to enroll directly into the local universities, and all of their credits transferred with no problems. If Columbia wasn't so obsessed about boosting its endowment, it would better serve its students to switch to that type of system.

    • Ditto on that

      My tution would have been probably $15,000 less, but I never got any back. Although my situation was more complicated because, as an international student, I had to stay enrolled at Columbia and thus keep paying them or I would have lost my student visa.

  13. Bwog

    CNBC's Fast Money had the b-school facing off against some Texas school. How about a finance-related article for a change? I'm a little bored of the usual arty-fartiness that has become characteristic of Bwog

    • yea!

      While I don't necessarily care about this B-school competition thing, I do think it's unfair of Bwog to always highlight literary events and "artsy-fartsiness" while ignoring so many other things. Can't I be okay with selling my soul for 6 figures once I graduate AND reading Bwog? Don't make me choose! Do an occassional something or another about finance/business/etc. relating to Columbia (and no the couple of posts about our sizeable endowment (ha!) don't count, though they were in the right direction) (oh but as far as endowments go, for those of you who may be paying attention, the markets are going to hell and Sowood capital lost a shitload of money...including $350 million of the H's endowment. Granted they're still beating us by double-digits...of billions of dollars...) Thanks for your consideration!

      • How to respond...

        Uh...if you don't like the fact that Bwog doesn't highlight business and finance news...which for the record has never, as far as I know, been part of the Blue and White or bwog, then go read Bloomberg. Is it a crime for a blog to concentrate on a few particular areas that interest its writers. I mean, it's not like they're asking people to pay to read. If you want to read a Columbia-related business blog, then make one yourself.

        Also, generally when asking people to do something that you want them to do, 'please' is usually a good place to start.

        And since when does only mentioning "artsy-fartsy" stuff constitute an attack on your self-proclaimed deal with the devil?

        • jeez

          Chill out hipster. Wouldn't it be easier if Bwog recruited a couple of people interested in financial journalism to post the occasional article on finance & Columbia? There's obviously a huge interest in finance on campus & CU has a deep connection to Wall Street. For example, instead of having profiles of fuck-all cheesed out freshmen, you could have profile people who actually worked in i-banks this summer and debunk this myth of 'making a pact with the devil' and other unfair negativity associated with the street.

          • sic

            Pardon my typos/grammar

          • I thought

            BWOG existed 'bunk' (possibly un-debunk?) negativity associated with everything.

          • hArdCOre baNkA

            This actually sounds pretty reasonable doesn't it? I have to say I'm one of these students that not only are interested in Bwog but have decided to spend a few years of my life in banking and your solution sounds great. Bwog, could you please see if you have someone on staff/can find someone to accomplish this? I'd offer but I know my strengths and weaknesses (of course I do, I prep for banking interviews before I sleep every night!...not) and I don't believe I could add a sufficient amount of snark to my writing, much less write very well on a consistent basis (SEAS alert!).
            In the event Bwog never adds finance content or even if it does, those of you with any interest in the matter should check out They manage to mix snark and finance and humour and all that good stuff. There's even a few arguments about proper comma placement in sentences (grammar nazis do exist outside of our fair gates!). Thanks for your time dear Bwog.

  14. po' po'

    Ok, what sucks more is that the CU programs aren't covered by financial aid (at least the summer ones and with the core who has time to do a full semester off?) and at nearly 8 grand for full expenses between tuition, living and airfare, it's hard to get the money to go.

  15. chris

    CULPA IS DOWN AGAIN?????!??!??!?!?!

  16. Zombie nation

    What's next to turn corrupt?

    3-Alma Matter
    5-The Lawns
    7-All of the above are already corrupt

  17. i wish

    i could boss angelina jolie around...

  18. i hope

    the tools sitting in Columbia's administration office read these blogs. they need some learnin'

  19. @ummmm

    Excerpt from Columbia housing website..

    If you live near New York and wish to commute during your first year, you may begin housing in your second year without forfeiting your guarantee of residence. Please note, however, that if you choose this option, you must apply for accommodations in your second year by October 15 of your first year, or you risk losing guaranteed housing status. Also be aware that moving from the residence halls to off-campus housing, a non-Columbia-owned Greek building or to your family’s home at any point may also cause you to lose guaranteed housing.

    yep.. most people still are gonna be in university housing.

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