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/ April 13, 2010
Becoming A Global University: Why is NYU Sending Students Abroad At Double The Price?

I won’t forget the moment I was telling an Argentine friend about my strange little Americans-only university in the middle of Buenos Aires. She asked me how much I paid for a semester. After a quick translation of dollars into pesos, I told her and she laughed and said I must have done the math wrong, there’s no way it could be that much.

I imagine that’s a common experience at NYU sites abroad. It’s hard to believe we’re paying many times more than locals pay to take classes with the same professors they have at their renowned, much cheaper schools.

It’s because of a policy called “home school tuition,” where you pay just what you would in New York. It’s a common practice among Universities that offer study abroad. It’s also totally unjustified – the cost of running an abroad site is far lower – less than 50% – than what we pay.

According to Jaci Czarnecki, Associate Director of Study Abroad’s Student Services, NYU takes 55% of your study abroad tuition and keeps it in New York (in your school, e.g., CAS). The other 45% goes to the Office of Global Programs. Of that 45%, only some portion actually goes abroad to pay for the program’s budget.

Czarnecki noted she wasn’t certain about the numbers, but repeated requests for confirmation and comment from higher level administrators went unanswered.

Although it’s not surprising that not all of the tuition goes towards the abroad site’s budget, the cost is shockingly out of sync with the price. Karin Fischer, a staff writer for the Chronicle of Higher Education, told me that the practice is common, but that she’s not aware of a school releasing their hard numbers like this.

Fischer wrote (paywalled) in 2008, “…A survey on program management conducted [in fall 2007] by the Forum on Education Abroad found that 47 percent of institutions require their students to pay home-school tuition.”

But she noted that Duke decided against the policy because officials agreed that “it was unfair to charge students a premium to transfer academic credits from overseas institutions when the university did not make students pay for other outside credits, such as those earned in high-school Advanced Placement courses.”

Amen. The biggest argument in favor of the “home school tuition” is that it allows schools to give more financial aid to needy students. That’s legitimate. But there’s no way NYU can justify charging us well over twice the actual cost of the site, even in light of the desire to give more aid.

In fact, if they cut the price, demand would go up for their study abroad sites, reducing overcrowding in dorms in New York and slowing down the need for the coming East Village takeover. Students would get a price break and NYU would get more space. Win-win.

Whatdya say, JSex?

This is part 2 of 2 in a series about NYU’s study abroad and global initiatives.

UPDATE: Title edited for clarity.