NDI implements new policy
Courtney Becker | Monday, February 1, 2016
Notre Dame International (NDI) is implementing a new policy beginning in the fall 2016 semester, under which the University will no longer pay airfare for students studying abroad during a semester. This change allows more students to study abroad.
Tom Guinan, associate vice president for administrative operations for Notre Dame International, said this change was made in an attempt to increase acceptance rates for students applying to study abroad.
“86 percent of applicants got offered acceptances into the program this year, and we were down, you can see from just two years ago, it was closer to 70 percent, which is terrible,” Guinan said. “For kids who are qualified and able to go, we did not want to turn away 30 percent of the students … Our goal is to have 90 percent or more acceptance, with the limitations being just capacity in a program.”
Junior Frank Wamsley, who, along with Guinan, gave a presentation about this change to the student senate in November, said the lower acceptance rates were due to NDI’s budget not being increased in the past several years while the cost of sending students abroad has risen.
“The amount of money that Notre Dame International gets to send students abroad has stayed the same, however, the costs for sending students abroad … have gone up over the years, and as a result, they’ve had to decline more people in the application process,” Wansley said. “[Guinan] and his team at NDI decided that the one thing that they could foresee cutting out and having the least amount of impact was the cost of the overseas flights.”
Cutting airfare not only made sense in comparison to other expenses covered by the University, Guinan said, but it also would fit more with the policies of other schools throughout the country.
“We found that really there are no other schools that actually fund airfare the way we had in the past, and I think it was something that we had been interested in looking at,” he said. “When we were looking at ways to have more resources to send students abroad, there were three things that we considered … One was tuition that we pay to the school, one was lodging and one was airfare.”
Guinan also said the possible ramifications of this policy for students who may not be able to afford overseas flights were carefully considered before making a final decision.
“Just based on the fact that the summer programs are so popular and the students pay airfare for summer programs, we said let’s see if there’s a way that we can make sure the students who are on financial aid aren’t cut out of it because of the airfare component,” he said. “As long as we can assure that the financial aid’s available to the students, we think we should be able to kind of have a win-win situation where the cost of the plane ticket will actually be able to send 35 to 40 more students abroad a year.”
While he understands and supports NDI’s decision now, Wamsley said he wishes the administration had been clearer with students about the decision-making process.
“I think something that’s lacking in the administration’s decision-making is how they’re going to relay news and information that pertains to students to the students,” he said. “Whether it’s holding a town hall meeting to explain big changes that apply to students or using the student senate and Hall Presidents’ Council…I think that the administration ought to find more ways to convey the reasons for the things they do with the student body.”
Sophomore Meghan Santella, who will be studying abroad at Trinity College in Dublin during next fall said she would have appreciated more of an explanation for the change.
“We got an email over the summer, I think, and then I didn’t really think too much about it, but I didn’t understand why they were doing it,” Santella said. “I feel like if [NDI] explained [the reasoning], that would’ve been more beneficial for them.”
Santella said despite the change, having to pay for the airfare didn’t affect her decision to study abroad.
“I wasn’t going to not do it because of [the airfare],” she said. “Notre Dame’s so good to me for financial aid, just in general, that honestly, if they won’t pay airfare, it’s not a big deal, they’re already doing so much for me.”
Guinan emphasized his hope that acceptance levels won’t be affected by any extra costs and students will seek help, if necessary.
“I’m excited that we were able to send out so many acceptances, and I hope that the students are excited, as well,” he said. “The acceptances or the decisions from the students are actually due on Monday, and [we] expect that we’ll see 800 plus acceptances or that most of the students will accept.”