November 29, 2007

Fewer Enroll in Non-Abroad C.U. Study Programs

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Although internship, externship and co-op opportunities in Ithaca are limited, current trends show that fewer students opt for Cornell’s non-abroad programs in some of the largest cities in America. Less than half of the Cornell in Washington Program is currently filled for Spring 2008. Only one student applied to work in Albany through the Capital Semester Program next semester. The Engineering Co-op Program also has seen a slight decrease in the number of applicants over the past few years.
“This semester [CIW is] under-enrolled … we can’t explain it,” said Linda Johnson, executive director of CIW.
Participants of CIW typically work three days a week in an externship and gain at least 12 credits through taking Cornell courses in Washington. Over the past three semesters, CIW on average received about 42 applications. However, the program, which has a maximum capacity of 57 students per semester, has only received 27 applications for Spring 2008. This reflects a 34 percent decrease in the number of applicants when compared to that in Fall 2007, when 41 students applied. Although applications for Spring are usually due by mid-October, CIW is still currently welcoming applications.
Apart from Washington, students can also go to Albany to attend the Capital Semester Program, through which they can work closely with either a New York State Senator or Assembly Member during the spring legislative season. Although only one application has been received for Spring 2008, Prof. Richard Canfield, who became director of Capital Semester in October 2007, emphasized that this year is an exceptional case, as the program is caught in a transitional period.
“In the past we usually get eight to ten students per year … [This year] is not a fair representation,” said Canfield.
A drop in the number of applicants is also observed in the Engineering College’s Co-op Program. The Program has seen a slight decreasing trend in the number of participants from 137 in the academic year of 2005-06, to 116 in 2006-07, to 104 in 2007-08.
“All [Engineering] students know about the Co-op … [but] they generally do not understand how the Program works,” said Christa Downey, coordinator of Engineering College’s co-op program.
Both Johnson and Canfield also shared this view and attributed the decrease in applicants to a general lack of understanding. Although all three programs enjoy a certain degree of name-recognition among students, few may actually understand what the programs offer and how they work.
For example, while finance is often a large concern, participation in any of the three programs does not affect a student’s existing financial aid package. Moreover, some programs may help with students’ finances in several ways. Participants of Capital Semester receive a stipend of $4,140 to cover housing and other expenses in Albany, while the salary from a co-op program would help students to alleviate their loans.
The large number of alternative options available at Cornell may also contribute to the decrease in applicants. According to Downey, instead of participating in an Engineering co-op program, students may choose to do internships or participate in on-campus research. However, she strongly recommended a co-op program over the other options.
“Co-op is longer, and because of that students can work on significant projects and produce results,” Downey said.
Canfield also shared this sentiment. Although he acknowledged that Capital Semester began recruiting late this year, it was difficult to get students’ attention as Cornell offers a lot of alternatives.
“[Capital Semester] shares some characteristics with Cornell in Washington, but students have told me that the Albany program provides a very in-depth experience … Because state legislator offices are relatively small, interns become integral members of the legislator’s staff and can influence the ways bills are written and introduced,” Canfield said.
Interestingly, while Johnson claimed that the location of Washington might be losing its attractiveness, prospective participants of Spring 2008’s CIW cited the location as a reason to apply.
“It’s nice to get an urban life … I will also be able to do lots of research since there are a lot of resources available,” said Michelle Nguyen ’09.
Other applicants also cited networking and job opportunities as main attractions of D.C.
Although the number of students enrolled in non-abroad programs may be decreasing, this trend seems not to affect Cornell Abroad, which received over 500 applications this year.
“Our numbers are pretty stable … students from all over the campus in a whole range of subjects are studying abroad,” said Richard Gaulton, Director of Cornell Abroad. “There is no universal method to recruit Cornell students, so we have to use a broad approach.”