PacRim gets Financial Aid Expansion
By Nayra Halajian
Studying abroad can be a crucial experience in a college education. But what if you can’t afford it?
In January, the University of Puget Sound temporarily extended merit-based financial aid to the Pacific Rim Study Abroad Program (PacRim) for 2017-18 . This action reversed a measure by the Cabinet of the Board of Trustees approved in Spring 2009.
In 2008, the University noticed they had lost a significant amount of money due to the financial burden of Study Abroad programs. Parallel efforts by the International Education Committee and the Cabinet of the Board of Trustees attempted to come up with a solution to the issue.
According to Faculty Senate Minutes for the meeting on February 4, 2008, the University’s International Education Committee (IEC) was created to “Establish criteria and assessment procedures for international education program, review and approve new and existing international education programs and program proposals, including programs led by University faculty, assist the Office of International Programs in selecting students for study abroad, and represent the interests of the Faculty in international education.”
Despite the IEC working toward a resolution, the Cabinet of the Board of Trustees presented its resolution the IEC on March 10, 2009 stating, “the cabinet approved a single pricing model where students pay UPS tuition for all of our programs and receive federal, state and UPS aid up to FAFSA determined need, with small adjustments related to airfare, visa, etc. The trustees were told about the change, though did not need to approve them. They will be effective for freshmen arriving this fall.”
Though this policy remained relatively unquestioned for about eight years, this did not stop sophomore Lauren Smith from realizing that something did not seem right.
Smith applied and was accepted into the PacRim program for the 2017-2017 school year. According to the University website, through PacRim, students travel to Asia for nine months of “rigorous academic work and experiential learning.”
Students get the invaluable opportunity to visit eight or more Asian nations, engage in multicultural experiences, and look at various systems of culture, economics, politics, religion, and philosophy throughout PacRim. However, if students cannot afford the program, they do not get to undergo this experiential learning.
When Smith learned that her merit-based financial aid would not apply in her study abroad opportunity, she started to try and get answers. She stated, “At the time, my family was going through a lot of stuff financially. I found out that I wouldn’t be getting any of my merit aid.
“I’d been applying to scholarships. I’d been working three jobs. The more people I talked to, the more it became obvious that this was a huge issue,” Smith said.
In November 2016, Smith created a Change.org petition titled, “Change the University of Puget Sound’s policy on merit aid use for the Pacific Rim Program.” The petition requested that the, “university expedite the revision of a new financial aid policy regarding the use of merit-based scholarships specifically for the Pacific Rim Asia Study Abroad Program.”
Smith’s petition gained over 200 signatures and was going to be presented later in February. However, having not presented the petition, Smith was informed that the University came to a resolution in late January.
“I hadn’t officially presented the petition yet because I was working on getting a resolution from ASUPS and getting a resolution from the staff. We were going to present it in February but then this came out anyway. But from what I have heard, the administration knew about the stuff that was going on. I know I wrote a letter to the administration, and parents had as well.”
“From the work that I’ve been doing, a lot of people in the administration want to hear the students, but there’s not a clear path for students to follow if they want to get information and make something happen,” Smith said.
Lauren made it clear that this change to get merit-aid abroad is just a trial run for PacRim. “We’re trying to work on solidifying it and also expanding it,” Smith said.