How Study Abroad Programs Make Money

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Colleges are first and foremost businesses, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Most are extremely well run; think about all the different revenue streams:

  • Tuition
  • Donations
  • Apparel
  • Sporting events
  • T.V. contracts
  • Funding

Where Do Study Abroad Programs Come In?

Study abroad programs, like the ones you see below are essentially middlemen. They have the same business model that companies like Priceline and Expedia do. Or more specifically to college students, companies like STA and Student City — the more they book, the less they have to pay. (Think Costco)

Instead of reserving all inclusive spring break packages or last minute travel deals, they are selling classes, housing, excursions, and travel insurance.

Just like major universities, they are big businesses.

According to College Data, the average price for a semester of tuition in the U.S. is $12,000. That 18k figure above does not include airfare or food! No wonder less than 10 percent of students study abroad. If you were to take a trip right now would you hire a travel agent or plan everything yourself?

What Are Your Options?

Instead of selling all inclusive spring break packages or last minute travel deals, study abroad programs are selling classes, housing, excursions, and insurance as a total package.

I am not demeaning study abroad programs, as a matter of fact, most of them give out generous scholarships. But they are the equivalent of hiring a travel agent while you are in college. They’re a luxury that most students simply can’t afford.

While most of the advertising that goes into to studying abroad comes from these programs (the posters, flyers, and brochures that you see scattered around your campus), they are not your only option.

We have written about financing and reasons why students don’t take take the trip. What happens is a lot of students go online, do some research, and get scared away because the they are getting back prices that are just way too high.

The majority of students that study abroad go for the summer because of the lower cost. While I commend these students for actually going, they’re not getting the total immersive experience that they could if they were staying for an entire semester — specifically those students who want to learn another language.

One of the four resources I have listed on our resource page is a book called Vegabonding by Rolph Potts. One theme that sticks out in particular for me throughout the book is the transition that comes when you stay somewhere for an extended period of time. You go from feeling like a tourist to feeling like a citizen.

If you go for three months you will feel rushed. You won’t get to know the city. That is why this website exists. There is no reason that every student shouldn’t be able to take a trip abroad for a semester. You should be able to experience the culture the way it was meant to be — like a resident, not just a visitor.

My story

This is the exact situation I was in when I was planning my trip. I wanted to go for a semester but only had the means to go for a summer. I was torn — going was better than not going at all, but at the same time going for a semester was a much richer experience.

What happened?

I ended up going for the semester. How? I scheduled everything on my own, without the aid of a study abroad program.

  • Classes
  • Housing
  • Flights
  • Excursions

Whatever you could book, reserve, or sign, I did myself…and I saved a ton of $ in the process.

You can do same the same! If you’re thinking about studying abroad I implore you to check out the Study Abroadcast: You will learn something new every time, I guarantee it.

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Published: March 29, 2018