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Wheaton College Lawsuit a Reflection of Biased Study-Abroad Policies

February 12, 2008

by Paulina Mis

The lawsuit filed last Friday against Wheaton College officials again brings into question the policies at numerous colleges providing study-abroad programs. Though largely advertised as the opportunity of a lifetime—a way to expand the mind and experience outside cultures—the impartiality of study-abroad policies at certain schools has become increasingly dubious.

The most recent allegation in a string of study-abroad investigations is that of Mr. James P. Brady, the father of a Wheaton College alumna who studied abroad in South Africa.  According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Mr. James P. Brady is suing the school for overcharging his daughter for her study abroad travels. Had his daughter studied at the South African college herself, the stay would have cost her roughly $17,000. Instead, Wheaton College asked the family to pay the tuition of regular undergraduate students residing at Wheaton.

Paying the South African tuition would have allowed Mr. Brady's daughter to save money in college--nearly $4,500. According to Brady, the school did not even provide additional services in exchange for Wheaton tuition and other costs. Though she did not stay at the school, his daughter was charged the full price of an education at Wheaton, including room and board. The school denied accusations of unfair billing practices stating that trip costs were clearly established beforehand.

This lawsuit is yet another blotch in the study-abroad records of colleges across the nation. Earlier this year, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo sent out numerous subpoenas to schools whose study abroad offices were suspected of unfair business practices.

Months before that, an article from The New York Times told the story of a Columbia student angry with his school for having denied him credit transfers for his work at Oxford. After traveling with an outside study abroad program, the student was upset to find that his credits would not be accepted by Columbia. While his peers received credit for their work at lesser academically-recognized schools,  the classes he completed at one of the most prestigious universities in the world would not fulfill his graduation requirements at Columbia.

The study abroad investigation continues to haunt schools across the nation. For some, the accusations are a second blow following last year’s findings of illegal incentive-based relations between student lenders and financial aid officials.  With a general search for unfair policies within the study abroad industry still in progress, the problems of colleges are far from over.


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