NAFSA Applauds Obama Administration’s Move to Expand Academic Travel to Cuba



Contact: Ursula Oaks, 202.495.2553 or 703.231.4995

For Release: January 14, 2011

WASHINGTON, January 14, 2011 – NAFSA: Association of International Educators applauds the Obama Administration’s action today to expand academic travel to Cuba. President Obama has directed changes to regulations and policies – expected in the next couple of weeks – to “increase people-to-people contact; support civil society in Cuba; enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people; and help promote their independence from Cuban authorities.”

In regard to educational exchanges specifically, the changes will allow colleges and universities to run credit-bearing study abroad programs under a general license; permit students to participate in study abroad programs sponsored by institutions other than their home campus; restore licenses for people-to-people exchanges; and expand travel for faculty and researchers, among other changes.

“Cuba is engaged in a historic political transition, and as that transition proceeds, it is essential to strengthen links between United States and Cuban civil society,” said Victor C. Johnson, senior adviser for public policy at NAFSA. “From a national-interest point of view, it makes no sense to isolate ourselves from this process. We congratulate the President for having the courage to take these important steps toward freeing U.S. policy toward Cuba from the straitjacket that has restricted our options for so long, and enabling us to engage with the transition.”

NAFSA has urged the restoration of academic, educational, and family travel and remittances to Cuba since restrictions imposed by the Bush administration in 2003 and 2004 precipitated a dramatic decline in educational exchanges between the United States and the island. Early in his term, President Obama reinstated family travel and remittances, but left the academic travel restrictions in place until now.

In expanding opportunities for academic travel to Cuba, the Administration makes an enormously important statement of its commitment to renewing America’s engagement with the world, a commitment that NAFSA: Association of International Educators shares. Academic exchanges have historically been one of the United States’ most important and successful public diplomacy tools, specifically in regards to opening up closed societies. These programs build respect and understanding among peoples, sustain diplomatic and political relationships, and ultimately create the conditions for a more peaceful world.