NAFSA Commends Representatives for Introducing the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act




Rebecca Morgan, 202.737.3699 x4449,

Washington, November 14, 2017—NAFSA: Association of International Educators commends the introduction of the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act by U.S. Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). The bipartisan bill would significantly increase education abroad opportunities for U.S. undergraduate students, providing more graduates with the global and cultural competencies they need to compete in the increasingly interconnected global economy.

Opinion polls show the vast majority of Americans believe it is important for students to gain intercultural competency and experience; however, less than 2 percent of college students study abroad each year, and only 10 percent of graduates have studied abroad during their college career. A recent survey of U.S. businesses found that 40 percent failed to expand their business because they lacked the necessary international experience—experience graduates could gain with greater access to education abroad.

“The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act is, at its core, a jobs bill. Its implementation would ensure our nation is prepared to compete in a globalized economy and solve international challenges that know no borders,” stated Esther D. Brimmer, Executive Director and CEO of NAFSA. “We need more graduates who speak a second language, who understand other cultures and who are comfortable living and working in a global setting. One of the best ways for students to gain these skills is by studying abroad. It is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ for a subset of college students but should be an essential component of a quality higher education. We applaud Representatives Ros-Lehtinen and Bustos for taking the lead on this vital piece of legislation and urge Congress to quickly move it through to a vote.”

Created from recommendations put forth by the Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program and the vision of the late Senator Paul Simon, the legislation aims to strengthen education abroad and prepare America’s undergraduate students with the cross-cultural competencies they need to thrive through four distinct goals:

• boost study abroad participation;

• expand diversity of participants;

• increase diversity of destinations; and,

• encourage a greater commitment to study abroad by higher education institutions.

The Simon Act would achieve the set goals by providing grants to colleges and universities that demonstrate ways to grow study abroad above and beyond normal growth. This cost-effective model would allow higher education institutions across the country to apply for competitive grants, individually or in consortium, to support programs that aim to expand access to study abroad.

“The U.S. higher education system is large, diverse and decentralized. The beauty of this model is that it puts decision-making into the hands of those closest to the students—the institutions—and asks them to develop a plan that is unique to their challenges and opportunities,” said Brimmer. “NAFSA has piloted this model through the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund’s public-private partnership and released two reports that demonstrate institutional grants are an effective and efficient way to encourage sustainable, long-term change on campus. With 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside of our borders, it is imperative that we give our students every opportunity and resource to compete in the global economy, and study abroad is a proven tool to do just that.”

Legislation to establish this program has been introduced in previous Congresses, enjoying strong bipartisan support.

“Senator Paul Simon dedicated his life to improving our world and providing better opportunities for our young people,” Congresswoman Cheri Bustos said. “That's why I'm so proud to introduce this legislation to invest in our next generation in his name. By making it easier for the leaders of tomorrow to study abroad today, we’ll help provide students, particularly those who may not be able to afford to do so, get an invaluable educational experience. I want to thank Rep. Ros-Lehtinen and NAFSA for helping to advance this important priority.”

NAFSA is joined by a growing number of organizations that support the Simon legislation, including the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers, American Association of Community Colleges, American Council on Education, American Councils for International Education, Association of American Universities, Diversity Abroad, Forum on Education Abroad, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, Institute of International Education, Joint National Committee for Languages, National Association for College Admission Counseling, National Council for Languages and International Studies, National Education Association, and Partners of the Americas.