Managing the Costs of Studying Abroad
So, just like so many others, your college student wants to study abroad. And just like so many others, you're nervous about it.

Studying abroad is a great opportunity for your child, right? But can you afford it?

Chances are, with the right information and early action, you can. Many financial aid options exist for students who wish to study abroad; it is just a matter of educating yourself and planning everything ahead.

Costs You Face
The cost of studying abroad depends upon the destination country, the type and length of the program and what is included. You have to ask your student's school many questions, including whether or not things like housing, meals and insurance are included in the program fees. A cheaper program may seem enticing, but if it doesn't include living or eating, the in-country costs can quickly add up.

Keep in mind that you will have to pay application fees and deposits in addition to tuition. Other costs include fees for passports and visas, airfare, immunizations and local transport once your child arrives in the country in which he or she will study. You should also factor in the cost of books and materials, meals and incidentals. If your student desires to travel during the weekends when he or she is not studying, that will require additional money.

Ask your student's school if it has budget and cost sheets that you can use to estimate what a study abroad experience will cost you and your family. Get your questions asked and answered well before your student applies for any study abroad program. The earlier you begin, the more options for financial aid will be opened to you. Further, stay abreast of the ever-shifting currency exchange rates between countries. Sometimes, as in the case in some African countries, one American dollar can purchase more than you'd imagine. But in other cases, such as in England, any object costing one pound really equals two American dollars.

So Many Options
First, the key to remember is that the actual tuition of a foreign college can, and most likely will, cost less than your child's current domestic institution. Also know that financial aid transfers, and that you will be able to find a number of other financial aid opportunities as well.

These come in varying forms, including loans, grants and scholarships, state aid and institutional aid. You can also get financial aid from public and private organizations with which you are involved, as well as program sponsorships. Loans can come either from the federal government or from a bank.

First, if your student has not already done so, he or she will need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid online. Once that has been done, it is time to begin the investigation into what type of aid your child is eligible for. IIEPassport offers priceless advice and scholarship information throughStudyAbroadFunding.org. The comprehensive database allows you to search for scholarships by country, subject and other categories.

Federal aid can come in the form of grants and scholarships such as Federal Pell Grants and Federal Supplementary Opportunities Grants. Federal Stafford Loans, Federal Perkins Loans and Parent PLUS Loans for undergraduates are also available through the government. The government also offers the David L. Boren Undergraduate Scholarship for Studying Abroad and the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.

Keep in mind that your student cannot usually get both a scholarship and federal aid, so find out about the school's policy on outside scholarships. Also, federal loans will not cover all study abroad costs. Both federal and bank loans have limited funds that pay for only a portion of the study abroad experience, so be careful not to enter into debt.

If your student is seeking a study abroad scholarship, GPA matters. He or she must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher to qualify for these merit-based scholarships, which are usually offered by institutions. You may also want to tap third-party institutions that will sometimes offer limited financial aid for students studying abroad.

Exchange programs can enable your student to maintain the same financial aid package he or she has been studying in the United States, even while abroad. This is usually the case with public and state institutions that make studying abroad cost-effective by paying the same amount of tuition and fees.

Other Considerations
Changing your student to "independent" status in order to cut costs will take three years to take effect, and even then, only a few students end up eligible for this status. However, rest assured that your student cannot lose his or her normal financial aid while studying abroad, as long as the program he or she is a part of is approved by the federal government. Federal law allows for study abroad financial aid to begin about 10 days before the beginning of the program, so you will not be able to use that aid for application fees and deposits.

Make sure to visit the various offices at your student's institution to obtain scholarship information. These include financial aid offices, study abroad offices and academic department offices. Don't forget to investigate what financial aid you can get from civic and religious organizations, campus clubs and the companies that employ you and your spouse. National organizations like the National Association of International Educators (NAFSA) can also be of possible help.

Be sure to visit IIEPassport's StudyAbroadFunding.org, your online resource for study abroad loans and scholarships. You and your student will find a wealth of information on the website, as well as study abroad funding links and current news.

Also remember that it is possible to afford your child's study abroad experience, and it will be one of the greatest gifts you can give.

Source: Institute of International Education's Parent Guide www.iiepassport.org