The University of Deusto in Bilbao is one of the bougier, private universities in Spain. Students walk in, clad in Michael Kors, and are willing to pay up to 6,000 euros a year for a degree in psychology.
That’s still less than what we pay at UCLA, a public university in California.
It’s no secret college tuition is cheaper in a lot of other countries around the world, compared to in the United States. Yet, studying abroad costs University of California students even more than their UC tuition. But aside from airplane ticket costs and rent, studying abroad shouldn’t be more expensive than studying in the states.
The high costs of studying abroad seem to come from the UC’s overseas education agreements. Students pay tuition, UC student fees and additional study abroad fees to the UC Education Abroad Program, a foreign exchange service that ensures students receive UC course credits while studying overseas. These payments, in turn, allow partner universities to send their students to study abroad at the UC while paying their own university’s campus fees.
Students also have the option to study abroad without UCEAP. They just risk spending thousands of dollars for classes that might not even count for credit.
But there is no logic behind why a UC student studying abroad should be paying UC tuition rates and campus fees. The student is not receiving any instruction from UC professors and not benefitting from any of the on-campus amenities. Yet students pay for all of these services, so that a student from a foreign university can come to a UC and utilize those services.
In other words, the UC is putting a minimum price tag on a college degree, even if students are receiving their education in another country. Out-of-state students get the worst end of the deal as they have to pay their additional nonresident supplemental tuition fee, despite not studying in California at the moment.
This sometimes translates to students paying more for an education that costs less. For example, if you want to study abroad at the Carlos III University of Madrid in Spain and are non-European, you can study there without UCEAP through its Free Mover program, which costs 130 euros per unit or 780 euros for a six-unit class – about $149 and $894 respectively.
But UCEAP’s program with Carlos III University of Madrid costs a UC in-state student about $8,375 for its fall semester classes. Included in this fee is the cost of fall tuition, campus fees and traveler’s insurance. Out-of-state students also pay supplemental UC tuition. While studying abroad without UCEAP can cost you about $3,900 for a full class load – less than what an in-state student at UCLA pays – studying with UCEAP can cost you $4,475 more.
However, only a UC student studying through UCEAP would be guaranteed to receive UC credit for their abroad courses. That’s despite the fact that a student studying at an overseas university through UCEAP and a student studying on their own can take the same classes.
Clearly getting credit for studying abroad is all about who you pay. And students have had to stomach any additional costs.
Sam Ragin, a fourth-year history student, studied abroad spring quarter in a split program through UCEAP in Rome and Madrid. He said he went through UCEAP because all of the little details were taken care of. Ragin added many people studying abroad get frustrated about the fees they have to pay.
“You have to overlook (the fees) – if you get hung up on it, you’re going to ruin your time,” he said.
For a UCLA student not studying through UCEAP, they must go through the university’s undergraduate admission office and registrar, said Mauricio Cobian, associate director of the UCEAP advising unit at UCLA. Cobian added, however, the grades will not be counted as part of the student’s GPA if they study without UCEAP.
That’s in addition to the fact that any student who studied abroad must go to the corresponding UC campus department and submit a petition form in order make sure the courses they took will satisfy graduation requirements.
The discrepancy between an education abroad with and without UCEAP makes little sense. Students should be able to pay the cost of tuition for the university they are studying abroad at, not for the UC campus they are leaving. It’s logical that the UC should automatically accept units from universities it has partnerships with, regardless of whether students go through UCEAP. This could reduce the cost of studying abroad, and make it accessible to more students.
Of course, lowering study abroad costs might seem to allow students to escape the tuition costs of their own campus, thereby increasing the demand for studying abroad. But there are already fail-safes to prevent this from happening. Abroad programs have enrollment caps and other safeguards. Lowering the study abroad costs, which seems reasonable given the UC’s arbitrary price tag, would only allow more students to consider studying overseas.
For example, Caroline Hsiao, a fourth-year political science student, said she was able to pay for a study abroad at Science Po in Paris in the spring thanks to saving up money from her job.
But not every student is able to do this.
Studying abroad is fun and enriching. Getting credit for the experience shouldn’t depend on who you pay for it.