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Study Abroad Inquiry Expands in New York

An article in today’s Inside Higher Ed reports that Attorney Alfred UniversityGeneral Andrew Cuomo’s investigation into kickbacks and other shady dealings between university officials and providers of study abroad programs is alive and well. Apparently Alfred University, a small liberal arts college in western New York, has received a subpoena from the Attorney General.

Here’s a snippet:

The study abroad investigation began this summer in the aftermath of high-profile allegations that study abroad office staffers could be unduly influenced by perks like free or subsidized “familiarization” trips to study sites abroad or commissions on student fees. In an interview Friday, Sue Goetschius, director of communications at Alfred, said that Cuomo’s office asked for an extensive list of documents relative to Alfred’s relationships with outside providers. Among the lines of inquiry: Which programs Alfred approves and how many students attend each one, and what the budgets are.

Alfred, a private, 2,300-student university in New York, has just a two-person international programs office (a director and support professional). The university’s list of affiliated providers is long and not necessarily instructive in terms of which relationships the attorney general’s office might be especially interested in learning more about.

Alfred has not been accused of any wrongdoing. And many other universities may have also received subpoenas, but only Alfred has admitted receiving one.

As I have written elsewhere (here and here), the study abroad programs at various universities are of very uneven quality. Many are poorly designed, academically weak, and offer more play time than serious study.

Students and parents should ask plenty of questions as they choose a college and as they register for a study abroad program. You want to make sure you are getting your money’s worth.

Mark Montgomery
Montgomery Educational Consulting

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