Study abroad faces uncertain future

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear’s proposed budget cuts for the 2009 fiscal year will have adverse impacts on tuition, financial aid, personnel and integral programs, including international study abroad.

Due to the current three percent budget cuts, Northern Kentucky University is implementing a short-term budget reduction, which involves re-evaluating the school’s finances over the next six months. It is uncertain how this will directly impact study abroad programs.

“We are hoping that no money will come out of the scholarship fund,” said Michael Klembara, executive director of the International Programs Department. “We have not been told how cuts will be implemented in the department.”

According to Klembara, financing for the study abroad programs usually comes via scholarships, financial aid and student’s personal funds. He is concerned that the weakening U.S. dollar, along with cuts in funding, will make traveling abroad more challenging, which may negatively impact enrollment in the programs.

Tywanna Watson, a sports business major, feels that a cut in funding will make it difficult for students hoping to broaden their horizons and deny them that cultural experience.

“As Americans, we are already behind other countries in terms of respecting, understanding and appreciating what other cultures have to offer,” Watson said. “Students will be less likely to study abroad if they can’t get financial assistance. As a result, the diversity at NKU will continue to be lacking at best.”

So far, neither students nor faculty know when and how the budget cuts will affect study abroad.

“We don’t know yet how the cuts are going to affect us because we don’t know yet how much the cuts will be,” said Maureen Woods, coordinator of international student admissions. “I do know that NKU will push on no matter what the cuts are, we always have, we always will.”

However, the study abroad programs are still moving forward regardless of the looming budget cuts. The Free Global Perspectives Lecture, given by Kevin Kirby, professor of bio-computing in the department of computer science on Feb. 6, expressed the importance of studying abroad and the cultural and life long benefits associated with it.

The Global Perspectives Lecture Series is a university-wide program designed to showcase the international accomplishments of NKU faculty through presentations.

Kirby reflected on his experiences from teaching at Saigon University in Korea to traveling in Guatemala and Mexico City.

He spoke highly of the Alternative Spring break in Mexico City, which is one of the highest-rated programs offered by the Cooperative Center for Study Abroad. In this program, students gain invaluable experience working in community development centers, staying with host families, working with children and venture to historic sites, such as the Pyramids of the Moon and the Sun.