Beginning this semester, The University of Texas-Pan American will offer students the opportunity to study at select universities nationwide for a semester while still enrolled in the University.
As a member of the National Student Exchange program since August 2012, UTPA now joins nearly 200 universities in the United States, Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that serve as a network for inter-university exchange. The NSE, a not-for-profit education consortium established in 1968, is funded through institutional membership fees of $800 per year and student application fees. An NSE coordinator is assigned to each member university.
The NSE allows students to study out-of-state and within U.S. territory for a semester and in some cases, up to a year. Summer terms may also be available at select campuses.
Christopher Keller, director of the Guerra Honors Program, a UTPA English professor and the University’s National Student Exchange coordinator, said interested students should apply by Feb. 24 to be able to attend the host campus of their choice by next fall.
While UTPA currently offers study abroad programs, the NSE may appeal to students who are not ready to study overseas but are still looking forward to the “study away” experience.
“The NSE program is a wonderful opportunity for UT Pan American students to experience the culture and academic environment of other universities in the US,” said Sandra Hansmann, the director of international programs. “Participation in NSE can be an ideal experience for students seeking a meaningful exchange experience but for whom international study abroad isn’t quite right.”
According to Keller, UTPA study abroad programs are usually ‘faculty-led’ where students travel with a professor to a foreign country and take a course. Study abroad courses usually take place in the summer. With the NSE, a student takes a full course-load during a semester at another university with that school’s professors, has an ID card and lives on campus.
“A student traveling in the U.S. can gain as much diversity and experience as going to Europe,” Keller said. “It will still be a transformative experience going to Oregon as to France. You get to immerse more with the host university in a semester than at a three-week study abroad program.”
Keller said it is more common for students to pay the normal tuition to UTPA instead of paying directly to the host university.
In this tuition-reciprocal exchange program, two forms of payment are used. In plan A, students pay in-state tuition and fees directly to the host campus. In plan B, students pay the normal tuition and fees to their home university, but students are required to pay their own housing and meals if planning to live on campus.
The NSE is open to all UTPA students but recommended for juniors and seniors. The program is designed for students to take courses that complement their academic majors, Keller said.
Ten students, according to Keller, have expressed interest in participating in the NSE program and are currently in the process of filing applications.
“One student wants to study (music) away because the kind of guitar training he’s interested in is not available at UTPA,” Keller said. “Another student is interested in marine biology and wants to study somewhere on the West Coast so she can have direct access to marine life that isn’t available here in the Gulf of Mexico.”
To be eligible to participate in NSE, students must be enrolled in a member university full-time, have a cumulative 2.5 GPA and be in good academic standing.
Available placement for NSE participants at member universities depends on the campus and its available program and courses. Under what is known as a “1:1 ratio,” universities trade an equal number of students. Other students are accepted if space permits. In the case of an “even campus,” such as UTPA, the host campus accepts the same number of students it intends to exchange. In an uneven campus, the host campus accepts a few more students than it intends to send. Open campuses accept all qualified students.
Interested students are encouraged to stop by UTPA’s NSE office housed in the Guerra Honors Program, located in the Lamar Building, Room 130. Keller also hopes to have a link of the NSE available on the UTPA website in a month or so.
Having recently joined the NSE, the new program at UTPA is in its promotional stages. As of now no UTPA students have studied away as part of the NSE.
“We don’t expect to have 500 students leave campus, but we do hope some students will jump on the prospect. “It’ll take some time but if we get eight to ten students, then that’ll be a good start,” Keller said.
For more information about the National Student Exchange program, visit their website at www.nse.org.