It’s too expensive! I can’t afford it!” This excuse, in one form or another, is among the top reasons that students give for not studying abroad. Admittedly, foreign study requires a substantial chunk of money, but paying for an international study program is much easier than students may realize. There is a supply of financial aid available to students through grants, scholarships, and other programs. These funds are offered by organizations that understand the value of an international experience and that are eager to support students who wish to expand their boundaries.
What Is It?
The biggest source for financial aid is FAFSA—the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Offered by the government, FAFSA is an annual application that collects information about a student’s income, his or her parents’ income, tax returns, college tuition, and so on. The government uses this information to determine the type and amount of financial aid each student will receive to help with college expenses.
Types of Funds
Federal financial aid comes in two forms: Federal Pell Grants and Direct Stafford Loans.
A grant is like a scholarship, meaning that students do not need to pay it back. In the 2012–13 academic school year, the government distributed almost nine million Pell Grants averaging $3,579 each and totaling approximately $32 billion (www2.ed.gov/finaid/prof/resources/data/pell-2012-13/pell-eoy-2012-13.html).
Direct Stafford Loans are issued from the government and are then given to a third party for handling. These loans have a fixed interest rate that is usually lower than that of other loans. They also generally have a grace period so that students do not have to start making payments until several months after graduation.
Horseback Riding in Iceland—so much fun!
Expected Family Contribution
Ryan Zirker, controller for the BYU David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, offered insight into the FAFSA process. He explained that when the government evaluates a student’s FAFSA, they “take all of that data and they issue a standardized score to all students who apply. It’s called your EFC, which is your Expected Family Contribution. Students and parents across the country are in different situations financially. This is the government’s attempt to standardize that and take in all the possible situations.”
The EFC score represents how much the government believes a student’s parents can help with college expenses. Zirker added: “If a student receives an EFC score of $5,000, then the government says, ‘Okay, we think your parents will give you $5,000 every year to help you with your college expenses.’” (Whether or not parents actually will offer this or any amount is at the parents’ discretion.) The government then determines financial aid based on the EFC.
Why It Matters for Study Abroad
The EFC is used for more than just federal dollars. Many organizations, including the Kennedy Center, use the EFC score to determine which students will receive scholarships and other financial aid. “In the application you can list up to ten schools that you want [that information] to go to,” Zirker said. “We use it for study abroad programs. I know there are a lot of scholarships around our campus and campuses across the country that are using that same information.”
Financial Aid from the Kennedy Center
ISP Program Discount
The Kennedy Center uses the EFC to help calculate who will receive an ISP Program Discount—a scholarship that applies toward international study opportunities. At the end of the ISP application is a checkbox: “Would you like to be considered for financial aid?” If a student checks the box, a committee will look at that student’s EFC score.
To be considered for an ISP Program Discount, students must have a minimum 3.0 GPA, write a paragraph about why they deserve financial aid, and complete a FAFSA form, if one has not already been filled out for that academic year.
“We put together a spreadsheet of all the people who have applied,” said Zirker. “We have some formulas that analyze the EFC score and the GPA to give us a preliminary setting. Then the committee looks at the preliminary awards and reads the students’ paragraphs about their situations, and we make adjustments and finalize what awards we’re going to issue. Once the committee all agrees, then we make the awards to students.”
One semester in Provo = one semester anywhere in the world
As part of its thirtieth anniversary year, the Kennedy Center has created a global initiative to develop a $10 million endowment to help students across campus participate in international study programs. Currently, less than 5 percent of BYU students go on BYU programs abroad each year. Our goal is to change that.
In an effort to make international experiences affordable, the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies has set Provo Parity as the goal: that students will be able to intern in Moscow, to enroll for classes in São Paulo, to study abroad in South Korea, or to participate in one of the other 127 programs the center offers for the same price as studying in Provo.
If you think a global experience is important and should be available based on merit, please help celebrate our thirtieth anniversary by supporting Provo Parity. Contributions of $30, $300, $3,000, or more will help make this happen.
Our goal is to begin with $30,000 to support six students who would otherwise be unable to study abroad. As the funds grow, Provo Parity will continue to support more students and will share their experiences in Bridges magazine and through social media.
It’s easy to contribute online via kennedy.byu.edu/donate. Or mail your check to 237 HRCB, Provo, UT 84602, att: John McCorquindale, Kennedy Center LDS Philanthropies director. You can also contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-422-4404.
Scholarships for Studying Abroad
Study abroad scholarships come in all varieties. Listed below are a few, and you can search “study abroad scholarships” online for more. Keep in mind that federal aid (fafsa.gov), tuition scholarships (financialaid.byu.edu), and departmental scholarships (unicomm.byu.edu/directories) may also apply toward program costs.
Benjamin A. Gilman: www.iie.org/Programs/Gilman-Scholarship-Program
Golden Key: www.goldenkey.org/scholarships-awards/overview
ISP Program Discount: kennedy.byu.edu/isp/funding/financial-aid
John T. Petters: www.johntpettersfoundation.org
Phi Kappa Phi: www.phikappaphi.org/grants-awards/study-abroad
UC Davis: studyabroad.ucdavis.edu/students/finances_scholarships.html
The Kennedy Center draws its scholarship funds from a set pool. Distribution is determined by the application, the cost of the program, the amount of money available, and the number of students who apply. Funds are distributed as students apply throughout the year, so the center looks at past enrollments and estimates how much money to allocate for each semester.
“At the beginning of the year I know how much money we have to give out,” Zirker said. “About 20 percent of all of our students that end up going, go in the winter, probably 50 percent go in the spring, 25 percent go in the summer, and 10 percent go in the fall. So we take the money and we try to match the money to the students. Doing it that way, we try to make sure that whenever you go, you have about the same chance and about the same amount of money per student that we’re awarding in each of the terms or semesters.”
Most of the program discounts are around $1,000. “There are a lot of students who want to go,” Zirker explained, “so we cap it at about $1,000 so we can help a larger number of students.”
Zirker and the rest of the committee try to make sure all of the money is used each year. So if fewer students than expected apply for financial aid, the students who do apply will receive more money. Zirker also factors in the cost of the program. “Some study abroad programs will vary widely in cost, so we try to help people in similar ratios. If your program costs half as much as somebody else’s, they’re probably going to get more scholarship funding because they have a bigger bill to pay at the end of the day.”
|Average Weekly Cost||Short-term program in London||Long-term program in London||One semester at BYU (undergraduate)|
Why Not Apply?
Because the EFC is important for receiving financial aid, it would seem that more students would submit their FAFSA. However, Zirker has noticed a trend in FAFSA applications: some students begin the application but do not finish it. “I don’t know for sure if that’s because it scares them or because they think, ‘My parents make too much money,’” he puzzled. “But we have students who go in and say, ‘Yes, I want to apply for the study abroad scholarship,’ and then they don’t complete their FAFSA.”
Whether applicants are afraid that they will not get any money or do not want to spend the time to fill out the lengthy application, Zirker recommends that all students complete their FAFSA—no matter what their reservations may be. “It can’t hurt. The worst that could happen is that you don’t get any financial aid. But we’re giving out scholarships of maybe $1,000. And for the hour it takes you, that’s not a bad rate of return.”
In addition to the ISP Program Discount, many other scholarships are available. Some are offered through the university, such as tuition and departmental scholarships, but students can find many scholarships specifically for study abroad offered by entities outside of the university. Students can search for them on the Internet and then visit the organizations’ websites for information on their respective financial-aid offers.
Peace out, Great Wall.
Getting Out of Provo
Currently less than 5 percent of BYU students participate in a study abroad program each year; however, numbers are rising. With renewed support from colleges and departmental programs, a stronger push for international internships, and more and more returning missionaries, prospects are good that enrollments will continue to grow.
But even without scholarships, BYU’s ISP costs are comparatively lower than many other programs.
To help make study abroad more affordable, the Kennedy Center has launched a new initiative called Provo Parity. Through Provo Parity, contributors can donate money to enable study abroad experiences for students who never would have had the opportunity otherwise. The Kennedy Center hopes to provide these students with an international study experience in any country for the same amount it costs to attend one semester in Provo at BYU. As the program’s funds grow, it will be able to support more and more students.
Cost should never be the reason a student remains stateside. Many people have created opportunities to make sure students who want to study abroad can. Whether through grants, loans, awards, or scholarships, financial aid is available for all students who wish to make the world their campus.