Three travel fellowships at college

Uncertain times for foreign study

Howard County

November 07, 2001|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

Thanks to a $10,000 gift, three students at Howard Community College will have the chance to travel anywhere in the world for credit.

Before Sept. 11, school officials thought students would jump at the chance. Now, they're not so sure.

"We'd like to think students will still want them, but ... ," said Barbara Schulte, who donated the money to the college with her husband, Jim, to create the Schulte Travel Fellowship .

The Schultes say they want to continue funding the fellowships, but if there is no interest they will stop.

"For obvious reasons, we're really hoping students will apply in droves," said Ardell Terry, the college president's executive associate for the capital program, who was instrumental in organizing the program.

The fellowships were planned well before the terrorist attacks and came at an opportune time for the college. HCC, which has an exchange program with a Mexican college, has been trying to create more study-abroad opportunities to compete with neighboring community colleges, including Montgomery College and Anne Arundel Community College, both of which offer numerous foreign-study programs.

As community colleges have become more competitive, foreign study is becoming more important in their recruiting efforts, education experts say.

"Over the last decade, we've seen tremendous growth [in foreign-study programs] as community colleges are reaching out for more students," said Norma G. Kent, director of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges in Washington.

About 130,000 American students studied abroad last year, a 45 percent increase from four years earlier, according to a recent study by the Institute of International Education in New York.

Although the Schultes did not attend HCC, they have lived in Howard County for more than 15 years, and Barbara Schulte serves on the school's Educational Foundation board of directors, a nonprofit fund-raising group.

"It was time to give something back," she said.

Barbara Schulte, a property manager, and Jim Schulte, an architect, want to provide students the same opportunities they have had during their travels. The Schultes have been to more than 30 countries. As a general rule, they said, they travel only with what they can carry on their backs and avoid using guides.

"American kids grow up kind of insular," Barbara Schulte said. "They need to see the world is not just America."

The program is open to about 100 students involved in two of HCC's honors programs. Applicants must have at least a 3.0 grade point average, take courses to prepare for the trip and submit a 500-word essay detailing their plans once they arrive at their destination.

Applicants can travel anywhere in the world, including the United States, to conduct research. But the Schultes would prefer applicants to go abroad.

Students can receive up to $3,300 for their travels. Applications will be accepted, starting Jan. 15.

The terrorist attacks occurred as the college was beginning to plan the final stages of the Schulte Travel Fellowship. HCC officials say they have no doubt students eventually will regain enthusiasm for foreign travel, though they acknowledge they are not sure when that will happen.

"This is a wonderful experience, but whether students will want it right now, we're not really sure," Terry said.

Schools throughout the nation are similarly uncertain about their foreign-study programs. Although the Council for International Education Exchange has about 1,000 people registered for its programs, which is slightly above average for the spring semester, it is prepared for the numbers to drop.

"In another month, there could be a whole other take on it and maybe the numbers will go down," said Martin Hogan, director of external relations for the council, which runs programs in 30 countries.

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