7 Tips to Make Your Custom Program Affordable for Students

Translating your faculty-led custom program idea into reality can be daunting. Here are 7 tips to ensure your international Custom Program stays more affordable to help student participants.

1.) Location, location, location. A program’s academic subject focus and site location should compliment each other, however being flexible on a program’s location may save students big bucks. Consider running a program in a country with an affordable exchange rate. (Find out more)Programs with academic focuses in  areas such as literature, architecture, political science or business can be adapted to run in many of ISA’s program locations. For example, an architecture program would be very interesting in Paris; however, due to a better exchange rate and lower cost of living, a similar program may be less expensive in Prague. Additionally, if a program runs during peak tourist season, prices may be higher. So, be flexible with program dates and trip duration, if possible.


2.) There’s no place like home. Accommodations are typically the most expensive aspect of any study abroad program. Being wise and flexible about the type of program accommodations can shave quite a bit off of the program’s cost. Apartments may provide kitchen facilities and other amenities not found elsewhere, but in some sites, this can be an expensive option and may be difficult to arrange for short term programs. Homestays and hostels tend to be more cost-effective than hotels. When booking hotels, going with quads instead of doubles or triples can also save on cost. The location of accommodations can also make a difference. If your program has the flexibility of being placed outside of the city center, this can also mean more $$$ in your students’ wallets. Ask your Custom Program Manager for their recommendations based on city, length, and requirements of your particular program.

3.) The way to a person’s heart. While an “all-inclusive” program sounds great, adding meals to a program may not be the most cost effective solution. Consider giving students the option of finding some of their own meals for a more authentic experience. Including a welcome and/or farewell group meal is a nice idea and having a group lunch instead of dinner can mean cost savings.


4.) On the road again. Public transportation can be an excellent way to save on costs and it also gives students the opportunity to explore the city like a local. While private coaches can be easier to transport groups, they tend to be less cost-effective for small and medium-sized groups. On the other hand, trains can be expensive for long distances but come with a great view! When planning excursions, check with an ISA Custom Program Manager to find out if the cost of a private coach or a train ticket is lower per student. Lastly, low-cost air carriers for flight connections between sites may appear to be cost effective, but watch out for hidden costs like baggage fees and transportation from the airport into the city.


5.)  Exploring excursions. Some countries have more free activities available, even if the cost of living is more expensive. For example, many museums and attractions in London, Brussels, Madrid, Tokyo and Seoul are free! Determine if your students would benefit from tour guides or not and watch out for extra fees such as droite de parole – the ability to lecture in certain museums in France. Incorporating cultural activities at sites such as public gardens, parks and religious sites are another way to add significant cultural experiences to a program at minimal costs. Lastly, consider scheduling overnight excursions ahead of time to avoid higher prices or limiting excursions to one-day trips to eliminate hotel costs.


6.) Scholarly scheduling. Keep in mind the total number of contact hours a course will require. Some universities are willing to count cultural and academic visits out in the city towards contact hours and this can be a nice way to reduce the need for classroom space (a sometimes pricey program component). If  a place to lecture is needed, breaking down the number of contact hours by day and knowing the number of classrooms required is very helpful. In addition, consider if  what else will be included. Guest lectures? Academic visits? Hiring a local professor or enrolling at a host institution will increase costs as well. If you or your colleague(s) know any local professionals or professors in the country who would be willing to guest lecture, contact them and they may do it for free!


7.) Price out faculty fees. Consider having your Custom Program Manager separate faculty and student costs; having departments fund the faculty separately will go a long way in lowering student costs. ISA recommends a ratio of 15:1 for students and faculty, but frequently work with a range of student to faculty ratios. Remember, all custom programs will have on-site support from ISA staff, so it’s not always necessary to have multiple faculty leaders accompany larger groups. Separate pricing for faculty may not always be an option, so check with your university.


For more tips on ways to keep costs low on your CP, see our post “15 Ways to Keep Costs Low on Your Custom Program”!

Ready to get started on developing your custom program? Contact the ISA Custom Programs team at cp@studiesabroad.com.


Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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