Subpoenas issued for study-abroad programs

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The cost of studying abroad may sometimes be inflated to cover free and subsidized travel overseas for college and university officials.

That's the worry of New York's attorney's general office, which has set its sights on study-abroad programs at 15 colleges and universities. The office has issued subpoenas to officials at Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, and Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. The subpoenas will help authorities collect data to make sure that business deals are not shortchanging students.

Authorities worry that study-abroad companies may have negotiated backroom deals with colleges and universities. Under these alleged deals, students pay inflated rates to cover what amounts to kickbacks to school officials. For example, a study abroad program might pay for an administrator to stay in a city such as London for weeks longer than truly necessary for an administrator to set up a program.

Other schools included in the probe, according to the Associated Press, are:

American University in Washington, D.C., and Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.; and, in New York state, Fordham University, Alfred State College, Alfred University, Manhattanville College, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Pace University, Siena College, and the College of New Rochelle, Lawsky said.

Many students may be affected by the backroom deals. During the 2005-2006 academic year, more than 223,000 U.S. students studied abroad. That is a jump of more than 150 percent in the past decade, according to the latest annual survey by the Institute of International Education, a nonprofit that manages study-abroad programs.

The investigation followed a New York Times story by Diana Jean Schemo in August (found here), which investigated whether some study abroad programs offer perks to colleges and university officials, to influence their decision on where students study overseas.

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