Monday, July 8, 2013

field course costs

One of my undergraduate course requirements was a field study course. The department had a traditional 6-week course in the summer every other year, but it also had a 3-week course in Europe that was quite a bit more expensive.

I did the 6-week course, which had a reasonable "course fee" (I recall it being around $300) and allowed us to stay (camp) in our dorm rooms for the first week. After that, the lodging ranged from dirt-cheap hotels to campgrounds with some degree of amenities to camping in the middle of nowhere. My school didn't charge tuition by the credit, so it didn't cost me anything more than that (plus food/laundry costs, which I'd need to pay for anyway).

I was initially curious about the European short course, which was paired with a normal-term half-credit course to make up a full credit. But the course was offered by the time I'd gotten cynical about the department, and I wasn't sure I wanted to go. The kicker, though, was that there was no way for me to afford it. There was some vague hand-waving about "additional financial aid", which I didn't think I would qualify for, and which sounded it was only for dire financial necessity. They also wanted commitments early in the process (like, a week after the initial informational meeting).

I was not an unusually (or even usually) disadvantaged student. I graduated with minimal debt that I paid off almost immediately. I hadn't really had my educational plans stymied by money before. But it made me think - if I skipped a field study course because of not just financial constraints, but because the people in charge blithely assumed that cost wasn't a factor, how many other people self-selected out of other field courses because of cost?

As I was writing this post, I got all fired up about field study course issues. So this week will be The Week of Field Studies. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

Marciepooh said...

My alma mater had/has (afaik) a 5 weeks (6 credit hour - full time hrs for summer) field camp. At the time I went, 1998, the course fee was, iirc, $800; this included transport to New Mexico (from AL) in the vans, lodging and meals at the base camp hotel. All camping and meals away from the hotel we paid on our own. It was 3 or 4 days in the field 2 days at the hotel (one day working one, day free) except for the first 2 days and two projects (out of 6) that were close by.

I understand when the school first started going to NM, they rented vans there and everyone met on a set day at the Albuquerque airport (or somewhere sim). As long as they got the corporate rate, it was much cheaper (at least fee-wise), but the rental companies got wise to what they were doing to the vans and started charging regular rates making university vans cheaper.

I knew of one student who was considering getting her BA instead of a BS because of the cost of field camp. I don't what she ultimately did.