Parents: Study-Abroad Programs Pose Hidden Danger

Deaths often are unreported, they complain
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 7, 2017 12:31 PM CDT
Parents: Study-Abroad Programs Pose Hidden Danger
A bell with the name "Thomas" inscribed on it that was hung by Elizabeth Brenner on the Milam Glacier Trail in Uttarakhand state of North India.   (Rishabh R. Jain)

When Elizabeth Brenner's 21-year-old son died while hiking during a study-abroad trip in India, she began searching for other cases and found only partial data and anecdotal records. "Nobody was keeping track of this at all," she says. Brenner's son, Thomas Plotkin, was one of the millions of American students who have studied abroad in the last decade—part of a growing global youth travel industry estimated to be worth $183 billion a year, reports the AP in an extensive look at study-abroad deaths. The number of American students studying abroad has doubled in the last decade. But while US colleges and universities must report deaths on their campuses, they are not required to disclose most student deaths that occur abroad and the US Department of Education keeps no such statistics.

Brenner and other parents slammed one report that used partial data to conclude that students are less likely to die overseas than on a US campus, saying the findings are misleading and give parents the idea that programs are safer than they may actually be. Ros Thackurdeen, whose son Ravi drowned on a school-sponsored excursion to a beach in Costa Rica in 2012, has since amassed news reports and travel alerts documenting 3,200 students who died or were kidnapped, drugged, or injured abroad in recent decades. For 2014, she counted 14 student deaths—not the four listed by the Forum on Education Abroad. The AP's full piece takes a look at other deaths, what little legislation there is surrounding the issue, and the "duplicitous" setup in which students study abroad via independent, third-party operators, not their actual university or college. Read it here. (More study abroad stories.)

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