Students who might not necessarily have the money to study abroad could soon be traveling on frequent-flier miles donated by alumni, thanks to a new Columbia College Student Council initiative.
CCSC Alumni Affairs Representative Daniel Liss, CC ’16, is working on ways for the University to distribute donated miles to students to help with financial hardship, emergency travel, studying abroad, or other University-related travel.
“For a long time on CCSC, people had the idea that it would be great to allow alumni to donate frequent-flier miles for student use,” Liss said.
The initiave was first announced at a CCSC meeting on Feb. 10. Members are currently working with the Student Affairs’ Alumni Relations Committee to find a practical way of transferring miles gifted by alumni and parents to students. Some options Liss said they were looking into included redeeming tickets in the name of the student and registering the University as a charity with major airlines.
Bailinson said that a frequent-flier mile fund could help connect students and alumni on a more personal level.
“Right now there are a lot of financial donations, but this is a way for alumni to facilitate a direct benefit with the student,” Bailinson said. “It’s a simple, common-sense solution that I really think is good for a lot of students.”
“We need to make sure that students who are part of the program will be fostering a relationship with the alumni who are donating the miles,” Liss said.
Though Bailinson said that the initial goal is to provide support for students who can’t afford to fly home for an emergency, the council hopes to eventually expand the program to help fund summer study-abroad programs. Though the Office of Global Programs has a number of fellowships and scholarships available, University financial aid currently doesn’t apply to summer programs.
“I studied abroad in China last summer, and I had an amazing experience, and one thing I didn’t enjoy was the fact that there isn’t as much effort towards socioeconomic diversity than there is here,” Bailinson said. “That’s primarily due to the fact that it [financial aid] doesn’t roll over to the programs, unless you’re part of one of the global scholars programs.”
“We are supportive of any initiative that helps defray the costs of study abroad for our students and look forward to the possibility of working with students and administrative offices on this initiative,” Michael Pippenger, dean of undergraduate global programs and assistant vice president of international education, said in a statement.
Students interviewed were supportive of how the initiative would help lower travel costs for study-abroad programs
“I can understand that the prices of airlines that are incredibly high would deter someone for who it wasn’t their first priority, and it would definitely deter them from studying abroad,” Brooke Robbins, CC ’17, said. “And I do know friends who don’t study abroad for financial reasons, if it’s not entirely important to their major.”
“I think having a pool to fund students who want to go abroad and who wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise would be a great idea,” Emily Hyatt, CC ’14, said.
Yasemin Akçagüner contributed reporting.