Costs, Unstable Enrollments End CBB Abroad Programs



Citing unpredictable enrollments and financial challenges, the presidents of Colby, Bates and Bowdoin announced in February that the CBB collaborative study abroad programs in London; Quito, Ecuador; and Cape Town, South Africa, will end after the 2004-05 academic year.

Funded in large part by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the program was established in 1999 as a way to balance the benefits of immersion in a foreign culture and the rigorous academic standards that Colby, Bates and Bowdoin faculties expect in their own courses. Former Colby President William R. Cotter, during whose tenure the program was established, said one goal of the program was to allow for academic continuity both before and after the semester abroad.

Colby operates the CBB-London center, while Bowdoin runs CBB-Cape Town and Bates is responsible for CBB-Quito. With resident directors on site, the centers are partly staffed by a rotating faculty from the three colleges. Colby has had more students participate in the CBB programs than the other two schools.

In a joint statement, President William Adams, Bates President Elaine Hansen and Bowdoin President Barry Mills said the collaboration has been successful in some ways. They noted the quality of the programs, the richness of the students' experiences and the opportunities the centers afford faculty who want to teach in different settings and cultures.

But enrollments have fluctuated widely and have left the centers financially unstable. "We have concluded that we cannot continue to operate the centers without incurring further operating losses and very substantial administrative burdens," the presidents said.

The three colleges intend to continue to collaborate in the area of study abroad, a popular option taken by more than two thirds of Colby students. The presidents said faculty members at the three colleges and the Mellon Foundation will consider the lessons of the CBB-center collaboration as the next form of cooperation is shaped.

Colby is exploring the possibility of continuing its London program in some form, said Martha Denney, Colby's director of off-campus study and associate dean of faculty. Denney said Colby students still will have opportunities to study in Cape Town, Quito and London even without the CBB centers. "Prior to [the CBB programs] students went to all of those locations," she said. "They just went to different programs [offered by other schools]. We certainly hope they will again."

Abroad programs run by Colby in Cork, Ireland; Salamanca, Spain; St. Petersburg, Russia; and Dijon, France, will not be affected by the CBB decision, Denney said.