Students who were planning to travel to Costa Rica or Peru this summer may have to make new plans.
The study abroad programs to these locations previously offered to Central Oregon Community College students have both been cancelled due to lack of participation, according to Jon Bouknight, a Communications professor at COCC. The programs were sponsored by COCC in conjunction with the Oregon International Education Consortium, and were offered to students in all six participating colleges.
“We simply didn’t have enough students,” Bouknight said, who is also a statewide representative for the OIEC.
In order to make the Costa Rica trip financially possible, at least 15 students needed to participate, according to Bouknight. By the application deadline, only six students had applied, and only one applicant was from COCC.
COCC students weren’t the only ones who demonstrated a decreased interest in studying abroad.
“In years past, there was not only a greater interest here, but also at other colleges throughout oregon,” Bouknight said.
It’s hard to pinpoint what caused the lack of interest, according to Bouknight. Some changes were made to the program, but they were all for the “betterment of the program.” The cost of the trip was $200 cheaper than previous years, and the destination was moved to a cleaner location that put everything within walking distance of where the students would be staying, he said.
Lack of recruitment could have played a part in the issue, according to Ken Ruettgers, a Sociology professor at COCC who was involved in organizing the Costa Rica trip.
“Not to blame someone else for all this, but the other community colleges that are part of OIEC do not recruit as heavily as we at COCC do for study abroad,” said Ruettgers. “To me it is a disappointment that there is not as much awareness and interest for this great opportunity.”
Scholarship students may still use their awards
During a meeting on March 1, the Associated Students of Central Oregon Community College unanimously voted to let the two students who had previously been awarded $2000 ASCOCC scholarships use the money for other programs.
The two scholarships were paid for by ASCOCC funds. Winners were determined by a selection committee, which consisted of Kelly Huskey, the director of student organizations at ASCOCC and Thomas Barry, a COCC sociology professor who was involved with the original proposals for the study abroad program. The committee consisted of four or five other members, according to Barry; as of press time, Huskey had not confirmed the identity of the other members.
One of the scholarship winners was Thyia Marshall, a COCC student and ASCOCC assistant. Marshall, who has worked as an assistant for Huskey and Eliot Collins, ASCOCC’s director of student affairs, intended to use her scholarship to study abroad in Peru.
“I’m allowed to keep the money if I can find another program that benefits my education,” said Marshall, who has applied for two different study abroad programs, both of which were cancelled. Marshall is in the process of looking for another program.
Barry encourages students who planned to attend the cancelled trips to find another way to study abroad this summer. He recommended that students look for opportunities outside of the college, and talk to people they may know who have previously studied abroad for advice.
“There’s a lot of stuff out there,” said Barry. “Just look around.”
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