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IU ends cosponsored study abroad programs in seven countries



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The Leo R. Dowling International Center is home to the Office of Overseas Study. The Office of Overseas Study supports students studying abroad. Marlie Bruns Buy Photos

IU will be no longer cosponsor study abroad programs to Rwanda, Switzerland, Morocco, Argentina, India, South Africa and the Netherlands through the School for International Training.

This decision came after complications with the provider SIT, who co-sponsored the programs with IU.

The issue stemmed from the clash in admission dates for IU's study abroad programs and SIT's independent programs. IU study abroad applications use deadlines while SIT uses rolling admissions. 

SIT said it would save spots for IU students but did not. These students were put on a waiting list, but Sideli said it was unlikely they would be admitted. 

“SIT told us that was not going to be a problem, which is why we entered into an agreement with them,” Sideli said.“We had very angry students."

Sideli said the Office of Overseas Study was hurting IU students by co-sponsoring the SIT programs. If the students had access to SIT programs independently, they would have had a streamlined application process and could have gotten into their favored program. 

“We did this to make things simpler for IU students,” Sideli said.

This semester, before the program's end, six students applied for SIT programs that were sponsored with IU. Of those six, one withdrew and chose a different program, three were waitlisted and only two were accepted, Sideli said. 

SIT programs haven't had high numbers of student participation at IU. The highest number of students participating in an IU co-sponsored SIT program at one time was eight. Students can now apply independently to SIT's program without IU's involvement. 

Most SIT programs are based in research instead of taking place in a traditional classroom environment. A participant does language preparation for the first two months and then goes into the field, Sideli said.

“It is very independent, very unusual,” Sideli said. “So our numbers over these years have been single digits. We’ve never had a year beyond single digits.” 

The co-sponsorship meant the University worked with SIT to ensure students get direct credits from the program to count toward their GPA, Sideli said. Now students must transfer credits and does not affect their GPA.

The cost of the program is another reason that participation numbers at IU were so low, Sideli said. 

SIT met with the study abroad directors from the 14 Big Ten schools in 2013 to give a $1,500 Big Ten scholarship to students participating in SIT programs. Most SIT programs are over $13,000. 

Without co-sponsorship, students can still get the $1,500 scholarship and access to their IU financial aid and loans. SIT also built in a Pell Grant match, which provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate students. 

“We were disappointed,” Sideli said. “We encouraged students to go on these trips. We thought we were helping students and we were actually hurting them.”

Libby Grossman

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated all programs to certain countries would be ended. Sideli said in an email there are still programs available, but the SIT cosponsored programs will be ended. She also clarified the admissions issue that led to the end of the co-sponsorship. 

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