The University of Missouri has been in the Southeastern Conference for more than a year now. The changes for the athletic department have been clear, but academic impact has been harder to measure. There is one SEC agreement that MU students could benefit from if they knew more about it.
Last September MU signed a new version of an existing agreement among the other 13 SEC universities: the SEC Cooperative Education Abroad agreement. This agreement allows all students within the Southeastern Conference to sign up for study abroad programs at any member university as long as there is space. Linda Reeder is an associate professor of history at MU who says the problem is many students have never heard of the agreement.
“I don’t know what the university is doing – I don’t understand it,” Reeder said. “Maybe it was such a small side agreement it fell under the radar in the midst of the athletic hoopla so nobody really knows about it and now it’s come to light.”
Reeder has been trying to coordinate a study abroad trip to Rome. After failing to get enough student interest at MU last year, she’s trying once again hoping that the advertisement of this agreement will help attract other students at other universities. “We want to utilize it and nobody knows how to utilize it because there’s no system in place. But I do think the university should get on board and let's work to begin to use it for to improve the opportunities of students,” she told KBIA.
MU spokesperson Christian Basi says the program has been advertised among students looking into study abroad programs. He says the university is still in the early stages of implementing the agreement, so it’s not been advertised to the entire student body. He added that if the international center advisor finds another program fitting an individual student, the advisor will tell the student about the agreement.
“If we don’t have a program to a particular country and we know that students are interested in that and we know now by signing this agreement that we would have access to that kind of program. This allows us to open up more opportunities for those students,” Basi noted.
Reeder believes there is still another issue with the agreement. “There is a glitch for us here at MU," she says, "but I don’t think it’s an insurmountable one.”
That glitch is the approximately $7,100 non-resident tuition fee on top of the base fee that the university charges each out of state student on a 15-credit program this spring. SEC students, however, have that extra fee waived.
“That’s something that we’ll continue to review, but right now they are set as policy,” Basi said. He also says it goes both ways, adding that MU students only have to pay resident tuition at other universities. Officials at the Universities of Kentucky, Arkansas and Alabama - other SEC schools - say they know about the agreement, but just like MU, don’t advertise it as much as they could.
The SEC’s Academic Executive Director Torie Johnson says they don’t track the action of the program at each university, but feels the agreement can benefit many students wishing to go abroad. “The goal of the education abroad agreement was to enhance study abroad opportunities for students within Southeastern Conference universities,” Johnson said.
Reeder and Basi agree the program has great promise and they both encourage students to try and study abroad if possible. Students can find out more information on the agreement by contacting the MU International Center. The International Center declined an interview for this story.