Op-ed: Northeastern should extend the first-year honors Dialogue of Civilizations’ fee waiver


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Northeastern should be flexible with some aspects of its Dialogue of Civilizations program.

Katie Mogg, contributor

Northeastern held its annual Dialogue of Civilizations fair virtually Jan. 20, showcasing the university’s unique summer study abroad programs. Held in high regard by the university, these programs “offer a great alternative to traditional study abroad opportunities for students in high-intensity majors with less course flexibility. These programs are unique, intensive and shorter-term, lasting approximately 30 days in a country as compared to a traditional four to six month experience.” Furthermore, the Global Experience Office, or GEO, explains that “Dialogues offer a wide variety of unique courses and electives that wouldn’t otherwise be available on campus, providing diverse perspectives and immersive cultural experiences.” 

As an attractive, relatively low-commitment program that yields valuable study abroad experience, it is understandable why Dialogues generate great interest among Northeastern’s student body. Personally, the highly boasted global experiences the university offers were a large reason why I chose to attend this school. But unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned college life onto its head, and study abroad experiences are no exception. As such, Northeastern’s 2020 Dialogues were cancelled, stopping thousands of students from experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime educational experience. 

With the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine being distributed to the Northeastern community and across the United States, there is hope for an eventual return to normalcy. However, study abroad experiences like Dialogues continue to hang in the balance. It is unclear whether these programs will have to switch to their online alternatives due to a variety of reasons, including travel restrictions, slowed vaccine rollout and/or future spikes in cases. Much is still uncertain about the status of study abroad programs, and since our world is still navigating a devastating pandemic, this calls for understanding and flexibility.

Northeastern University has failed to provide either, particularly to their honors students.

Students admitted to Northeastern’s Honors Program are “eligible to have the fee waived for one Dialogue of Civilizations during Summer 1 or Summer 2 of their first summer (only), up to a maximum of $3,500.” This means that honors students admitted for the Fall 2020 semester can only apply their fee waiver during the summer terms of this year. With the looming chance of 2021 Dialogues being converted to a reduced, online format, questions of whether the fee waiver can be applied to a later term quickly rose. These questions were squashed just as swiftly. The university determined that there will be no exceptions.

But with all this uncertainty, there should be. 

First-year honors students who apply and are accepted to online Dialogues should be able to reserve their fee waiver for an in-person experience. Northeastern’s refusal to adjust its policy despite these difficult circumstances feels like a way for the university to grab money from the pockets of its students and families without their best interest at heart.

The fee waiver is an opportunity for students to save thousands of dollars on a collegiate study abroad experience as a result of their honors status. Students like myself facing financial limitations exacerbated by the pandemic may only be able to embark on such an experience if the fee is waived. The lack of flexibility on this policy forces the hand of these students. They are forced to gamble a staple of their college experience in hopes that the pandemic won’t hinder yet another aspect of their academic plans. Students who started college in Fall 2020 should have comparable opportunities to experience fully-fledged Dialogues, just like the students who attended this university before the pandemic struck. 

To give our first-year honors students a fighting chance to enjoy the benefits they have been promised to the fullest, Northeastern should extend the fee waiver policy to the summer terms of 2022. Anything less is a scam. 

Katie Mogg is a first-year journalism major. She can be reached at  [email protected]