Creating a successful study abroad program requires balancing the quality of the students’ experience with affordability. Yes, everyone wants study abroad programs to be accessible to all students, but they also need to truly add value to the students’ education. 

What’s the best way to make that happen?  We asked for tips from three international education program developers:  Mayumi Nakamura, Interim Director of International Programs at Randolph-Macon College; Dr. Brandon Cromer, Biology professor at Augusta University; and Jenny Burkholder, a Study Tour Coordinator with 20 years’ experience at FTI.

How do you create an enriching experience while keeping the program affordable?

Nakamura:  It’s a fine balance. Don’t jeopardize safety for affordability. Some faculty members try to keep the cost low, but there’s a point where it can become unsafe. For example, choosing a hotel in an unsafe area.

There’s a reason we recommend using a service provider – to mitigate risk – to help guide us with these types of decisions. Paying for that service vs. not having the assistance when you need it is worth it.

Of course, the travel program has to be affordable. But you can’t be cheap with the service you’re providing students. Protecting your students is the most important factor.  

Cromer: I always try to have flexible travel dates in order to get the lowest airfare possible.  I also see if group housing is available.  On several occasions, we have had students camp in tents – this probably works better with outdoor-minded ecology students than other groups. 

I also prioritize itinerary items and see which ones can be removed in order to reduce the cost without degrading the study abroad experience.  

“[Housing] is often the biggest ticket item for any land program.” 

Jenny Burkholder

Burkholder: Aside from utilizing the great relationships we have with dozens of airline vendors and doing my best to book flights early, on the land side I really try to make sure I understand school’s budget and then talk through the housing options, which is often the biggest ticket item for any land program.  If they are open to hostels, this of course helps, but can mean stricter deposit terms.  Paying attention to ground transportation options and offering students at least one free day also help keep programs affordable. 

I encourage my clients to book flights early to lock in the lowest base fares. If we don’t get the price we’re looking for, I can always utilize the great relationships we have to negotiate a better rate.

On the land side, I really try to make sure I understand the school’s budget and then talk through the housing options, which is often the biggest ticket item for any land program.  If the university is open to using hostels, that helps, but can mean stricter deposit terms. 

Paying attention to ground transportation options and offering students at least one free day can also help keep programs affordable. Since we design each program for the needs of the individual university, we have a lot of flexibility when it comes to trimming the budget.

 Tips for Keeping Costs Down

  1. Use an experienced provider to find the best pricing without sacrificing safety
  2. Be flexible about your travel dates
  3. Consider all the housing & transportation options
  4. Prioritize itinerary items
  5. Book flights early
  6. Offer students at least one free day

We hope you enjoyed the this installment of our “Ask the Experts” series. If you missed the previous posts, take a look at:

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