Summer 2010 Embarkation

Understanding Tuition, Cost & Value

Semester at Sea is a unique and valuable educational experience that results in tangible personal and professional benefits. The opportunity to see the world aboard a state-of-the-art floating university affiliated with the prestigious University of Virginia (U.Va.) is a truly remarkable opportunity. However, the costs associated with administering a first-rate global study abroad program are substantial, and they directly impact SAS tuition and fees.

More and more, the costs of study abroad programs are rising and many question how program rates are determined. We offer the following to help you understand SAS tuition and fees, the resources we depend on to operate, our special nature as a non-profit, our growing financial aid initiative, and the value of our program compared to other study abroad options.

Semester at Sea is the premier global program for study abroad and has a nearly 50-year successful history and 60,000 program participants. While it is critically important that we continue working to control costs and make our program affordable to every qualified applicant, it is also important that we never do anything to weaken our education program or our health and safety standards in an effort to make it less expensive.

Program Costs

The cost is what Semester at Sea spends to educate an individual participant. This includes operating our shipboard campus; significant quantities of bunker fuel and oil; faculty, staff, and crew salaries; insurance premiums; and academic program enhancements.

The tuition and fees are what a participant is charged to attend our program, and they don’t fully cover our costs. Because Semester at Sea is administered by a nonprofit and is dependent on program enrollments, our program costs must be subsidized by corporate and alumni philanthropy, endowments, and foundation grants to sustain operations.

Academic Program Enhancements

The University of Virginia, one of the nation’s most renowned public schools, is the academic sponsor of Semester at Sea. Semester at Sea works closely with U.Va. to maintain and enhance academic standards and programming. Improvements to requisite courses in global, comparative studies; stipends for special scholars and lecturers; special field experiences; and service projects all require significant funding to keep Semester at Sea at a premier level of academic pursuit.

Ship Operations, Bunker Fuel, and Bunker Oil

Our ship travels roughly 60,000 nautical miles around the world each year-a third of the distance from Earth to the Moon. As such, the ship relies on bunker fuel and oil to make the journey, an amount totaling about 17,000 or more metric tons per year. The cost of these commodities is determined on a global market, and rates in different world ports can greatly vary.

Fluctuations and increases in price, which are becoming more common, have a significant impact on our bottom line.  We take significant measures to reduce the impact these increases have on participants and their families.

Faculty, Staff, and Crew Salaries

Collectively, Semester at Sea faculty are expert, dynamic, and curious: 100% hold doctorates or other terminal degrees and 100% have international experience and expertise in one or more of the regions visited. Our faculty-a team of roughly 30 individuals each academic term-are selected for their global scholarship and teaching ability by a University of Virginia Dean.

Faculty are supported and complemented by a group of 30-35 additional staff members, who are experts in their fields.

Our ship is managed and operated by V.Ships, a highly respected and qualified ship management company. V.Ships oversees a team of roughly 200 professionally trained and licensed officers and crew. It is critical that Semester at Sea maintain the highest standards of ship safety and personnel.

Insurance Premiums

Health and Safety are number one priorities at Semester at Sea. As a member of the inter-organization task force on health and safety, The Institute for Shipboard Education (ISE) assumed a leadership role in the formation of standards of health and safety in the field of study abroad. We go to great lengths to ensure everyone has access to excellent medical care by providing premium travel health insurance to all participants as part of their program fee. The policy offers $100,000 in emergency sickness and accident medical coverage in addition to other coverage.

Special Nature of Semester at Sea as a Non-Profit

Semester at Sea is administered by a 501c3 non-profit organization- the Institute for Shipboard Education- that is dedicated to enhancing a traditional academic experience with a global perspective and greater intercultural understanding.

The Semester at Sea program is distinctive among study aboard programs for its widely respected adherence to its original mission: the development of global under­standing through life-changing international experiences to assist young people in the development of a world view and intellectual curiosity about the peoples and cultures of all lands.

Over its 50+ year history, the program has been supported by countless alumni, parents of alumni, current parents, and vari­ous foundations whose generosity in annual fund gifts have made possible the excep­tional nature of the program. Annual fund revenues sup­port faculty initiatives on the voyage, special field and travel opportunities that arise during the semester, and special student awards and student leadership experiences while on board.

Financial Aid Initiative

The Institute for Shipboard Education annually awards $4.0 million in financial aid. Semester at Sea recognizes that a study abroad experience is a significant investment, and we also know that it’s one of the best possible investments for a student’s future. We are committed to helping as many students as possible realize the benefits of that goal. About 40% of Semester at Sea participants receive ISE scholarships or work grants each year.


What is the value of spending an academic term abroad with Semester at Sea?

  • Unlike traditional immersion programs, we cultivate a unique academic community of undergraduates, lifelong learners, faculty, and international scholars who live and learn in a shared environment while exploring as many as 12 international ports of call, so the participants experience multiple points of view.
  • In association with the University of Virginia, the nation’s second ranked public institution, participants attend classes on ship and complete in-country assignments for a full semester’s credit.
  • Working with our network of international scholars, tour operators, and business executives, we provide a field program of micro- and macro-level excursions, service projects, and university exchanges in each port of call, allowing participants to select the cross-cultural forays most suitable to their academic pursuits.
  • Throughout our history, participants have met with world leaders and dignitaries, traveled to the world’s most historic wonders, and enjoyed person-to-person cross-cultural connections that have left them indelibly transformed.
  • Semester at Sea provides the opportunity to get a taste of the world and develop a framework for future discovery. Our 60,000 alumni continually report that Semester at Sea inspired a career path, led to positive life changes, and perhaps most importantly, awakened a desire to better understand and contribute to the world we share.
  • Compared to other study abroad options, Semester at Sea stands out as the global leader. Studying abroad while sailing the globe is the unique invention of Semester at Sea and its predecessor programs. Since 1963, we’ve stayed true to our original mission: the development of global under­standing through life-changing international experiences. We have safely sailed on more than 108 voyages, educated more than 55,000 students from 1,700 institutions, and traveled to more than 60 countries.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if there is more we can do to help you understand the cost and value of our program.

How Can I Afford It?

For thousands of students, financial aid has helped to make their Semester at Sea voyage a reality.

This year, the Institute for Shipboard Education (ISE) will make available $4 million in student financial aid. More than 40% of all Semester at Sea students receive financial aid from ISE.

Careful cabin category selection and strategic choices with the International Field Program options can help students keep costs down and maximize program affordability.