Missouri Southern State University is trying to beef up its domestic study-away trips for students by becoming a member of the National Student Exchange consortium.

As part of its mission of international education, Missouri Southern promotes a variety of international study-abroad trips for interested students. MSSU offers options for direct exchange with partner schools in countries such as China, France, Germany, Japan and South Korea, and the university also belongs to the International Student Exchange consortium for numerous other study-abroad options.

But international trips aren't always the best option for some students who might still want an educational experience outside of Missouri Southern, said Paula Carson, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

"We have many students for whom (an international trip) is too big of a first step, so we have extended our domestic study trips, and this is another step in trying to get our students beyond the Four-State Area to understand the value of traveling and the wisdom that is out there beyond our four walls," she told the university's governing board last week.

Missouri Southern's participation in the National Student Exchange program would allow students to spend a semester or academic year at one of the consortium's 165 member campuses across the U.S., said Chad Stebbins, director of the university's Institute of International Studies.

"For example, our students could study at such places as the University of Alaska, Montana State, the University of the Virgin Islands or even the University of Guam. There are also exchange opportunities in Canada and Puerto Rico," he told the Globe in an email. "This would be a great opportunity for our students to experience living in a different part of the country and take unique courses that are only available at a few specific institutions."

Because of how the National Student Exchange operates, participating students, in most cases, continue to pay their home institution's tuition rates during the semester or year in which they study away.

"It will be an amazing deal for (MSSU students) because with our tuition being one of the lowest and most competitive, our students will be able to come here and, for no additional money, go to schools that are literally 10 times as expensive as we are," Carson said.

The university hosted representatives from the national consortium earlier this month for an initial visit, Carson said. Missouri Southern would be the first and only school in the state to be part of the exchange program, she said.

If Missouri Southern is accepted as a member institution, students could begin enrolling in exchange trips in the fall of 2019, Stebbins said.

Emily Younker is the assistant metro editor at the Joplin Globe. Contact: eyounker AT joplinglobe DOT com.