WMU Study Abroad and COVID-19 FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions

(Updated November 13, 2020)

For the most up-to-date information on the University's response to COVID-19 (coronavirus) can be found at wmich.edu/covid-19. The following are important definitions and frequently asked questions about study abroad-related travel given the current outbreak of COVID-19. Additional helpful resources include U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories and U.S. CDC Travel Health Notices.

Important Definitions 

  • HIGE: The Haenicke Institute for Global Education, WMU’s international office.
  • Enrollment Fee:  The part of the billable program fee that covers WMU SA operations and is billed to a student’s account after committing to a program.
  • Commitment Deposit: The non-refundable portion (down payment) of the total billable program cost. Not a separate or additional fee.

Frequently Asked Questions 

 

Q: Do students who committed to a study abroad program in Broncos Abroad assume financial responsibilities?

A: Yes, committed students agreed to the terms of the “Statement of Responsibility Document” in Broncos Abroad and assume financial responsibilities.

Q: Does WMU Study Abroad promote programs in countries that are designated Levels 3 or 4 by the U.S. Department of State? 

A: WMU SA does not usually promote study abroad programs in countries designated Level 3 or Level 4 by the U.S. Department of State or in countries where the CDC has recommended against non-essential travel. However, because program development requires several months of advanced planning and State Department and CDC levels now change with increasing frequency (due to health and safety updates), WMU SA will seek to be proactive and anticipate these changes and so there may be times when program development and recruitment will take a flexible approach to standard WMU SA practices.

Q: Does WMU SA cancel study abroad programs (prior to the official start date) if the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisory System designates a country at Level 4 or per CDC or U.S. government mandates? If so, what fees do committed students owe? 

A: Yes, programs are cancelled in those situations. Students who committed to the program are responsible for all non-recoverable expenses but do not have to pay the WMU SA enrollment fee or the commitment deposit.

Q: Does WMU SA cancel study abroad programs (prior to the official start date) if the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisory system designates a country at Level 3? 

A: No, students are asked to sign a waiver accepting additional risk.

Q: Can committed students opt out of a study abroad program (prior to the official start date) if the U.S. Department of State designates the host country at Level 3? If so, what fees do students owe?   

A: Yes, students may opt out. They are responsible for all non-recoverable expenses but do not have to pay the WMU SA enrollment fee or commitment deposit. Students who decide to study abroad despite the Level 3 designation must sign a waiver.

Q: What fees does WMU SA charge committed students if a third-party study abroad provider or a hosting institution cancels a program (at any level) prior to the student leaving the United States?

A: Students are responsible for all non-recoverable expenses but do not have to pay the WMU SA enrollment fee or commitment deposit.

Q: What fees does WMU SA charge committed students who voluntarily withdraw from a program traveling to a U.S. Department of State Level 1 or 2 country (for any reason) prior to leaving the States?

A: The commitment deposit and nonrecoverable expenses.

Q: What fees do students pay if they return home (for any reason) prior to the conclusion of a program while their host country remains at U.S. Department of State Level 1 or Level 2?

A: The commitment deposit and non-recoverable expenses. Provision of academic credit will be at the discretion of the hosting institution.

Q: What happens if study abroad students leave the States when a country is designated Level 1 or Level 2 by the U.S. Department of State, but the country is changed to Level 3 or Level 4 while students are outside the United States?  What fees do students owe? 

A: Each case is likely to be different, from complete cancellation to offering students the ability to finish a program online in the States or abroad. WMU SA will contact students and advise that they return to the States. Students must provide written affirmation that they received said notification. Students who opt to return to the States must provide WMU SA with departure details. Students who opt to remain in the host country must complete additional paperwork. Students who return to the States from U.S. Department of State Level 3 or Level 4 countries prior to the completion of their program are charged the enrollment fee and nonrecoverable expenses. Students who made independent housing arrangements abroad or contracted other services (not part of their billable WMU SA program fee) are responsible for negotiating with providers and making necessary payments.

Q: What happens if the U.S. Department of State designates a country “Level 3” or “Level 4” while a student is abroad and the student decides to remain abroad but then experiences difficulties leaving the country due to quarantines, lack of transportation to the States or other issues? Who pays for it?

A: WMU SA will continue to provide duty of care obligations to the student but the student assumes financial obligations, responsibility for facilitating departure, and the increased possibility of more stringent policies enacted by foreign and/or the United States government(s). Destitute U.S. citizens abroad who need temporary financial assistance should contact the U.S. Department of State's Office of Overseas Citizens Services (888) 407-4747 (or from overseas +1 202-501-4444). Students may also submit the “Study Abroad Emergency Funding” request form to WMU SA and solicit additional financial assistance to defray expenses. Students who require more financial assistance than WMU SA can provide can also solicit financial assistance that will be billed back to the student on their WMU student account.

Q: When students are abroad and return to the States for any reason, are they responsible for making changes to and paying for airplane tickets?

A: Yes, unless airfare was included in the billable WMU SA program fee (which is almost never the case). Students were required to purchase their own round-trip airfare prior to departure from the States and would need to contact airlines directly to make changes to their tickets. During emergencies, most carriers work with travelers to adjust for no fee or nominal fees. All travelers are encouraged to purchase airfare travel insurance prior to departing the States.

Q: What if students need to return to the States but inform WMU SA that they do not have sufficient funds to pay for changes to their airfare? 

A: Students may submit the “Study Abroad Emergency Funding” request form to WMU SA and solicit additional financial assistance to defray expenses. Students who require more financial assistance than WMU SA can provide can also solicit financial assistance that will be billed back to the student on their WMU student account.

Q: Will WMU SA provide GeoBlue health insurance for students who remain abroad despite being encouraged to return to the States? 

A: Yes, standard GeoBlue coverage remains in effect during (original) official program dates (with 2 days prior and after). Students may also purchase additional coverage from GeoBlue or a different provider if they will be abroad outside official program dates.

Q: Do students forfeit HIGE study abroad scholarships for canceled programs? 

A: Scholarships managed by HIGE include: Global Engagement, HIGE Travel, HIGE Virtual, Global Education, Mesara Airfare, President’s Grant, and Wenger Memorial. Students forfeit study abroad scholarships managed by HIGE for canceled programs when (a) WMU SA cancels the program prior to the official program start date, (b) the student withdraws from a program prior to the official program start date, and (c) the student does a full withdrawal from the program while abroad (earning zero credits).

The one exception is the Mesara Airfare Scholarship; this private donor has indicated that student recipients of this scholarship do not have to return Mesara funding to HIGE if they have already purchased their ticket and can demonstrate in writing that the airline refuses to refund the ticket. Students do not forfeit HIGE study abroad scholarships for canceled programs when the program is canceled by WMU SA after the official start date and the student is already abroad..

Q: Do students forfeit study abroad scholarships not managed by HIGE if a program is canceled?

A: WMU SA does not control or make decisions regarding non-HIGE scholarships offered by WMU departments, colleges, and programs, or by domestic, foreign, private, or governmental entities or agencies. Students must contact non-HIGE scholarship donors for their policies.

Q: Does GeoBlue medical insurance cover Covid-19? 

A: GeoBlue does not cover routine testing abroad for Covid-19 but does cover medical costs outside the United States if a member seeks medical attention for Covid-like symptoms.

Q: What happens and who pays if participants are mandated to quarantine outside the United States?  

A: Participants are expected to follow country guidelines and requirements. The student (not WMU SA) assumes costs associated with a quarantine. However, GeoBlue will pay quarantine costs during hospitalization abroad (but not in a private residence, hotel, or similar accommodation).

Q: What happens and who pays if the United States government mandates quarantine upon return to the United States?   

A: Participants must follow U.S. government guidelines. The student or their U.S. health insurance provider (not WMU SA or GeoBlue) assume costs.

Q: Does WMU require students to quarantine prior to returning to campus? 

A: All university personnel and students must follow WMU's Safe Campus guidelines.