Dean of the College Tim Spears has a tendency to throw in some light humor on his blog and then hit us with some of the heavy stuff like a post outlining discussions for increasing enrollment, moving study abroad to sophomore year, and opening 15 to 20 new schools abroad. Before we follow with some commentary, this post captures and parses some of the stuff Spears puts on the table (excuse my slightly sterile language below):
- The Money: the School has a few revenue streams (three to be exact), one of which is tuition dollars. If they up enrollment (let more people into Midd), it increases revenue because there is more money coming in. The school needs more money, doesn’t have space for more students on campus, and doesn’t yet want to change the student-teacher ratio.
- Study Abroad for a full year: Currently 175 students of the junior class studies in Middlebury abroad programs for a full year. 60% of all juniors study abroad, some of which are not at a Middlebury program abroad. The Study Abroad office encourages students (in most languages) to study abroad for a full year to maximize the cultural and language acquisition. But why then do a lot of students choose to study abroad only for a semester? If a student is abroad, they are not filling a bed back in Vermont.
- Middlebury abroad vs. Non-Midd abroad: When students decide to study at a non-Midd program, Middlebury loses the tuition dollars. It’s that simple. So should all Middkids study abroad at Midd programs? Middlebury would need to create and manage new abroad programs to meet the demand of Middlebury students.
- Sophomores vs. Juniors abroad: Is it better to study abroad your sophomore or junior year? It depends on a lot of factors. How good is your language skill? Are you mentally prepared to go abroad? What will you get out of the experience? Can going abroad benefit your academic work there and when you return?
- Mandatory study abroad: If you study abroad, you give up space back in Vermont. That space could be used to bring in another paying student. So should Middlebury force everyone to study abroad so they can add more students? The academic rationale is that mandatory study abroad gives the global perspective that Middlebury wishes to impart upon students.
- More schools abroad: If Middlebury were to force all students to take a year abroad, Midd would need to expand the abroad offerings by 15 to 20 new study abroad schools. Middlebury currently operates 34 schools abroad in 12 countries. These sites could grow quickly and cheaply because Midd partners with existing universities. More schools abroad give students options.
- English schools abroad: If you are required to study abroad but don’t want to take a language, Middlebury will need English-language options. Again, to keep tuition dollars, Middlebury might want to open English study abroad programs.
- Language Learning: If you are required to study abroad sophomore year, you have less time to acquire the language. Enter pre-Midd programs like MMLA and Rosetta Stone Middlebury. Your language path might look something like this: 1) Go to MMLA two summers before applying to Middlebury, 2) get into Middlebury and place into a second year language, 3) take language school the summer before sophomore year, 4) go abroad sophomore year with 3 years of language under your belt.
- Other Schools: If other schools send their students to Middlebury’s study abroad programs then Middlebury makes money.
As evidenced by the number of “if’s” above, a lot of the points are interconnected. Mandatory study abroad necessitates more schools abroad and more schools abroad necessitates different paths of language learning. Spears narrates two versions of how these interconnected points might unfold.
To be clear, though, Spears is identifying specific tactics to get at a larger goal of the “global liberal arts college.” That term deserves a post of its own since not everyone has quite bought in to this idea yet.
MiddBlog wants to know: What are the good ideas here? If you could dramatically remake the study abroad experience for students at Middlebury, what would that look like? Is this more business or academics?