College comes with a wide variety of experiences, some of which can be categorized as once-in-a-lifetime. One of the most highly prized—and highly regarded—experiences for a college student is studying abroad. With a semester spent studying overseas, a student can gain valuable skills, excellent resume points, among other benefits. For a parent, study abroad is starting to sound like a must-have for their kids in college.
There’s just one problem; a study abroad program can be astronomically expensive. Combined with college’s already exorbitant costs, the idea suddenly seems a lot more like a fantasy than an achievable goal. There are ways, however, that you can help close that funding gap, with a little creativity and effort.
The Financial Problem with Study Abroad
If you have a child in college, then you already know about the staggering cost of higher education. Even with federal financial aid, most students end up taking out student loans to bridge the gap; in fact, about three-quarters of college students have loans at graduation, trying to cover a piece of the $25,000 price tag on a four-year education.
As a parent who’s on the hook for the cost of college, you might feel that covering a semester abroad is a bit much.
Once your student has received his or her financial aid package at the beginning of the school year, it’s not easy to get that amount extended or raised, which makes it hard to turn to federal student aid to pay for a study abroad trip.
Because of semester start dates and the need to set up these trips early, the funding deadlines often end up falling inconveniently at awkward times of the year as well. January—right after the holiday season—and May, right before the summer, are typical deadlines.
The timing can be incredibly difficult for parents who want to be able to help their student get that abroad experience but also can’t necessarily come up with the money at those specific times of the year.
There is hope, however. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can help fund that overseas trip.
Closing the Funding Gap
If you’re the parent of a college student, then you’re already feeling the crunch of an expensive education. There has to be a way to help your student study overseas without overtaxing your already-hurting wallet, right? Yes, there is! There are actually a number of options to consider.
Study Abroad Scholarship Funding
There are many scholarships specifically meant to fund overseas study. There are plenty of listings of such scholarships that can be found online. Some are merit-based and set aside for top academic students; others are meant for students looking to go to a particular country, or pursuing a certain course of study. Each scholarship has its own criteria, and most of them are competitive. It’s best to start pursuing them early.
With scholarships, the money doesn’t require repayment, making them ideal sources of funding. However, in some cases, your student may need to sign an employment contract with the providing organization – this is a specific drawback to keep an eye out for.
Grants from Third-Party Organizations
Much like scholarships, grants don’t need to be paid back, and they’re offered by various philanthropic organizations and non-profits. Like a scholarship, a grant award is a competitive offer. In many cases they require an essay or other submission package, and the student may be required to follow through on certain promises like reporting back to the group about the study abroad experience. NAFSA, the Association of International Education is a good place to start. NAFSA List of Study Abroad Scholarships and Grants.
Student Loans for Study Abroad
It’s not the best option, but taking out an additional student loan to cover the cost of a study abroad trip is possible. It can help defray the expenses while still putting the responsibility for that cost on the student instead of your own wallet. Of course, keep in mind that the student loan would need to be repaid with interest. As mentioned, it’s tough to get more federal financial aid in the middle or end of the school year, but some students and parents may be able to find funding in the private sector with banks and lenders. However, remember to weigh the risks and benefits of taking on debt. You can get a wealth of experience from study abroad, but is it worth paying interest?
Find a Job for Your Kid
The idea of “working your way through college” doesn’t really work as well as it used to; the constantly climbing costs of education make it nearly impossible to simply rely on a job to pay for school. A job can, however, help cover the cost of an overseas trip, leading to less money you’ll have to contribute as a parent. Conversely, a part-time job could help your child pay for miscellaneous expenses or even rent. This could free up money elsewhere to support a study abroad trip.
Find a Cheaper Trip
If all else fails, you could always advise your student to choose a less expensive trip. Going to a different country, for a shorter duration, or with different living arrangements can often drop the cost to a more manageable amount. Think of the entire cost, including the cost of travel and cost of living as well as the cost of the program. Cost is considered on some study abroad review websites, look for comments on cost. On Abroad101, programs have a compiled star-rating for cost and tips for saving money, search for affordable study abroad programs on Abroad101
Sending your student abroad for study can be prohibitively expensive—but it doesn’t need to be. Take the time to do some research, and you’ll find that a semester abroad, with all of its once-in-a-lifetime experiences, is well within your student’s reach.
By guest author Andrew Rombach, a Content Associate from LendEDU – a consumer education website and financial product marketplace. Andrew learned plenty about financial aid from his own experiences with student loan debt in college. Now he covers a range of personal finance topics in general.