Buck-I-SERV changes raise affordability concerns

The Lantern
Students on an Ohio State Buck-I-Serv group work on construction of the coffee drying bed mid-afternoon during a service trip to La Palma, El Salvador. Credit: Courtesy of Shanti Lerner

Buck-I-SERV, Ohio State’s community service-focused academic break program, returned at the start of the autumn semester to its pre-pandemic pricing structure, almost tripling trip costs for students in comparison to last year’s prices.

Buck-I-SERV offers a variety of trips with service projects both across the United States and abroad. Pricing used now and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic typically ranged from $300-800 per trip, which is an increase from trips in 2022 that were offered at a significantly lower price as a result of increased funding from the university for the program’s 20-year anniversary, Meagen Rinard, assistant director of community and civic engagement, said.

That meant they were able to provide trips for $100-200, Rinard said. She added that this year’s increase also reflects inflation and increased travel costs.

These recent adjustments should be viewed as a return to normal rather than a random increase in price, Rinard said.

Dave Isaacs, Student Life communications and media relations manager, said the price reduction last year was also, in part, meant to encourage students to participate in Buck-I-SERV.

“A major factor in the pricing for last year was to reintroduce Buck-I-SERV to students,” Isaacs said. “We needed the return of students to Buck-I-SERV in order to revitalize the program post-COVID-19.

George Getsy, a third-year in health sciences and past Buck-I-SERV participant, said he understands the price change, but it may be an issue for students who were used to the cheaper pricing.

“With this increase compared to last year’s costs, I don’t think they are going to have that same pool of applicants,” Getsy said.

Rinard said students interested in Buck-I-SERV who are concerned about the fees would be provided with a fundraising “toolkit” to help them seek external resources.

She said students in the Second-year Transformational Experience Program can use their resources, up to $2,000 for a project of their choice, on Buck-I-SERV and several colleges offer scholarships to help offset trip costs.

Rinard said Buck-I-SERV consistently works to maintain affordability for all students.

“We’ve been really mindful of trying to create equity in the process,” Rinard said.

These changes are being implemented this academic year on winter, spring and summer domestic trips.

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