Going abroad is a tremendous privilege that not many people get to experience. For most, the cost of a trans-Atlantic or trans-Pacific flight is simply too expensive to begin with. If you can afford the plane ticket, the price you must then pay to truly absorb a foreign culture is quite steep.

When you combine all of these expenses, and then add in the fact that you must clear your schedule for a week at the very least, a trip abroad seems unrealistic, if not impossible.

All things considered, there is one demographic that has the most viable route to going abroad: college students.

The irony in the fact that cash-strapped, ramen-noodle eating college students are the ones who are most likely to go on a money-burning excursion abroad is plainly obvious. For decades, colleges have run study abroad programs where students can have the privilege to live and learn in a foreign country for half a year.

It is important to note that this is a privilege for college students, not a benefit.

Since a study abroad trip is a privilege for college students, they should only be going if they or their family has the disposable income to cover the costs. You do not get to spend a semester in a foreign nation just because you attend college. The costs are massive; housing must be paid for, books and tuition costs still apply, and then there are general costs like food and transportation.

Simply put, if you cannot afford to go abroad, then do not go! Sure, the experience will be fulfilling, but the debt incurred will eat away at the fulfillment in no time.

Seven out of ten students need student loans to afford college, how can they then reasonably expect to afford a six month trip abroad? According to a new study done by The Student Loan Report, a significant proportion of college students are using student debt to finance their study abroad trips.

More Than a Third of College Students Use Student Loan Money for Study Abroad Trips

The Student Loan Report posed the following question to 790 current college students: “Have you used, or are you planning to use, money received from student loans to help pay for a study abroad trip?”

To participate in the poll, respondents had to be attending college, have student debt, and be going or have gone on a study abroad trip.

The results of our poll revealed that 35.6 percent of college students surveyed have used or are planning to use student loan money to pay for their study abroad trip. The remaining 64.3 percent have not used or are not planning to use student loans to pay for an experience abroad.

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How can students be using student loan money for study abroad?

Federal financial aid and private student loans can be used to offset the cost of study abroad program fees and tuition.

Moreover, student loans can be used to cover living expenses included in cost-of-attendance. Unfortunately, it is difficult to verify the usage of student debt for living expenses.

So, of course a student is free to spend their loan money on a six month trip to Europe or Australia. But, is that the wisest and most effective way to be spending this extra cash? It is not unreasonable to argue that this money would be better spent on books, housing costs, food, or simply saved for future expenses. After all, the loan does not disappear and will need to be paid back with interest. Private student loan interest rates may be in the double digits and they can be costly over the long term.

If a student uses this extra student loan money to pay for an expensive excursion abroad then they are only putting themselves into a bigger hole. By using this money on a study abroad trip, the student is only making their debt problem doubly worse instead of working towards solving it by saving that extra money.

There is no doubt that a study abroad experience can have intrinsic value and a lasting impact on the way a student views the world. On the contrary, study abroad trips have also been criticized as global alcohol tasting tours where classwork is minimal to non-existent.

No matter how you view the merits of studying abroad, one thing is for certain. If a student is already using student loans to attend college, then they should not be extending those same loans to afford the unnecessary privilege that is study abroad. The 35.6 percent of college students that are doing this is simply too many, and they will be feeling the consequences of the extra debt long after their trip abroad is over.


This poll was conducted through polling company Whatsgoodly. Respondents were filtered out by a screening question. Only those who were current college students that had student debt, and had gone or were going on a study abroad trip were allowed to answer. In total, 790 respondents were asked to answer the following question truthfully: "Have you used, or are you planning to use, money received from student loans to help pay for a study abroad trip?"