Bridging Loan Program
2015 Heiskell Award Honorable Mention: Study Abroad
Nomination submitted by: Martha Johnson, Assistant Dean, Learning Abroad
Cost has been identified as one of the biggest barriers keeping college students from pursuing experiences overseas. As students struggle with tuition fees and loans, the price tag for study abroad can seem overwhelming. However, the University of Minnesota has identified innovative and effective ways to assist students with pre-departure costs associated with study abroad.
The Bridging Loan Program created by University of Minnesota assists students who do not have the funds available upfront to cover program deposits and flight booking costs. This enables students to pay for these pre-departure costs later with their financial aid package without added interest or fees. The education abroad office holds billing and covers flight costs through a partner travel agency until the students’ financial aid is disbursed.
To date, the Learning Abroad Center has "loaned" thousands of dollars to more than 100 students to cover upfront costs. UMN offers financial advising throughout the study abroad process, resulting in decreased defaults and increased financial literacy for students who go abroad.
“This program has made study abroad possible for underrepresented students and highlights a creative solution to an institutional economic barrier,” says Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, Karen Hanson.
The Bridging Loan Program recognizes that the timing of financial aid disbursement is a major obstacle for students with limited funds. Financial guidance and support for upfront study abroad costs results in more students pursuing studies overseas without the burden of having to pay in advance.