Model Study Abroad Legislation: Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Act
Ensuring the Global Competency of U.S. College Graduates
Like the digital divide of a generation ago, today we face a growing "global" divide, between those who will have access to an international education and will be primed for success in our globalized world, and those who will not. The United States cannot remain globally competitive without a citizenry equipped with global skills and knowledge. Ensuring that many more American college students have access to study abroad as part of their academic preparation is vital to U.S. competitiveness and should be a national priority.
The Value of Study Abroad
Study abroad is a learning opportunity that enables students to develop critical skills needed to compete in today's global economy, including foreign language fluency, strong problem-solving and analytical capability, a tolerance for ambiguity, and cross-cultural competence. Recent studies also show a positive correlation between students who study abroad and higher grade point averages and degree completion rates. Study abroad contributes in vital ways to preparing students for the competitive global environment into which they will graduate and should be the norm, not the exception, across U.S. higher education. Currently, however, only about one percent of all college students study abroad each year.
The Simon Program
exists which would go a long way toward making a global education part of the
academic preparation of every American college student. The Simon Study Abroad
Program, inspired by the vision of the late Sen. Paul Simon (D – Ill.) and the
recommendations of the congressionally-appointed Commission on the Abraham Lincoln
Study Abroad Fellowship Program,
would create a modest program of challenge grants to incentivize colleges and
universities to make study abroad an integral part of higher education in order
to advance three national goals:
million U.S. college students will study abroad annually for credit by 2020
abroad participants will be representative of the undergraduate population in
terms of gender, ethnicity, income level, and field of study
significantly greater proportion of study abroad will occur in nontraditional
destinations outside Western Europe
education institutions could apply for federal grants, individually or in
consortium, to help them institute programs that would move the country toward
achievement of these objectives.
to establish this program has been introduced in two previous sessions of
Congress. The bill was passed twice by the House and introduced in the Senate
by Sen. Dick Durbin (D – Ill.).
Congress to support this important initiative, which would make an important
contribution to ensuring that American college students have the international
skills and understanding necessary for success in today’s global economy.