Revolutionizing Study Abroad Access: IES Abroad Unveils Breakthrough Financial Aid Initiative, Doubling Opportunities for Underrepresented & Pell-Eligible Students

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IES Abroad
February 28, 2024

Today we announced that our new High-Impact Aid Commitment, a transformative approach to financial aid to greatly increase access to study abroad, is available to our Consortium Member Schools. 

Driven by a dedication to fostering inclusivity and access in study abroad, we have completely restructured our financial aid approach, prioritizing a financial aid program that expands our reach and directs funds to high-need students, making study abroad possible for an even greater number of students than our existing program. We wanted to develop a program that used funds as efficiently and effectively as possible, to make the greatest positive impact.

The High-Impact Aid Commitment strategically allocates resources to those with high financial need while simplifying the financial aid process and demystifying the costs associated with studying abroad.

Providing dedicated financial resources to make study abroad accessible has always been integral to IES Abroad’s mission. In our history, we have annually allocated significant resources to financial aid (up to $7 million in 2023/24) and have awarded nearly 45,000 scholarships overall. As part of our goal to elevate their existing financial aid program and provide increased accessibility to study abroad, particularly for historically underrepresented and financially disadvantaged students, the High-Impact Aid Commitment was formed. 

This new approach to awarding financial aid first began as a pilot in Spring 2024 with a group of 12 institutions who are a part of the IES Abroad Consortium, including two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), which saw a significant increase in financial aid applications and participation rates.

Gregory D. Hess, Ph.D., President and CEO of IES Abroad, emphasized the organization’s goal to address the growing financial barriers that come with study abroad: “As an economist and former college president, I closely observed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education.  The significant increase in student financial need highlighted the growing difficulty for students to access transformative study abroad experiences. Upon discussing these challenges with colleagues, we took it upon ourselves to do something about it by re-shaping our financial aid program to address the evolving landscape of international education.”

Upon the rollout of the pilot program, we received more than three times as many financial aid applications from pilot school students compared to the year before, and students with the highest need are receiving an average of $2,000 more in financial aid. Students coming from a school who is a member of the IES Abroad Consortium with an Expected Family Contribution of $0 can receive up to $7,000 in financial aid towards their semester program. 

The pilot phase of the High-Impact Aid Commitment has already delivered significant positive outcomes, including the following:

  • A 194% increase in financial aid applications from students enrolled at pilot institutions
  • A 120% increase in financial aid applications from students with the highest financial need ($0 Expected Family Contribution) enrolled at pilot institutions
  • A 106% increase in program participation from Pell-eligible students enrolled at pilot institutions

Encouraged by these outcomes, IES Abroad is rolling out the program across all 270+ Consortium Member schools, starting with the Spring 2025 semester. The aid application for Spring 2025 is now open, and students can apply here.

This initiative required extensive collaboration, strategic planning, and input from partner institutions of IES Abroad. We also engaged an industry-leading external consultant to help guide this initiative. These collective efforts have proven to be impactful as countless students will now gain even greater access to study abroad opportunities.

Susan Thomas, Associate Director of Financial Aid for IES Abroad, further emphasized the long-term goals of the commitment, saying: “The IES Abroad Financial Aid Team’s focus is on creating transformative experiences for students from all financial aid backgrounds, and this new program is a revolutionary approach to financial aid that centers around funding transparency and supporting students. This new approach will change the lives of so many more students, and I look forward to seeing the widespread impact this has on students and the field at large as we continue to push for greater access to study abroad.”

As Dr. Gregory D. Hess most notably says as part of the mission, "Study abroad changes lives, and changed lives change the world. We look forward to evaluating the success of the High-Impact Aid Commitment so that future students have greater access to lifechanging intercultural experiences.”

Learn more about IES Abroad scholarship and financial aid. Also, feel free to contact our Financial Aid Team

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