By Gan Matthews, NEWS 9
NORMAN, Oklahoma -- The University of Oklahoma is looking to send more students overseas for its study abroad program thanks to a recent lease by the school, but some may be wondering why the school is spending millions when money is tight.
When he was an OU student, Ryan Bowling studied abroad in the Italian city of Arezzo.
"It's picturesque," said Bowling. "It's not much larger than Norman, so in many ways, as an Oklahoman, an Oklahoma kid growing up here, it felt comfortable. It felt like home."
This week OU regents focused on Arezzo, voting to spend $4.7 million to lease and renovate a 14th century monastery. It's the future home for a large percentage of OU students studying overseas.
"They'll be able to take courses there in virtually every subject there under the sun, and they'll be able to live on campus there at the monastery, take their courses there, have some of their meals there as well," Zach Messitte with OU International Programs said.
The $4.7 million may sound like a large chunk of change to be spending in Italy at a time when OU is facing budget problems. But the Regents think it is money well spent, and so does President David Boren. Boren says all the money for Arezzo comes from private donors.
"We can't really spend them elsewhere, we have to spend them for what they're given for, so the choice is just don't do it, or use the funds for this purpose," Boren said.
OU students seem to approve the Arezzo project.
"I think no matter what the economy, what the state might be in, there's no replacement for seeing the world," OU student Jess Reynolds said.
"It doesn't seem to be like the university is hurting for money, so I think they should feel free to use the money however they feel," OU student Jeff Garza said.
The Arezzo monastery should be ready for students to use by 2013.