The global competency of U.S. college graduates is vital to U.S. competitiveness, yet a mere 10 percent study abroad before they graduate
For Immediate Release

Today Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) introduced the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act of 2023 in the U.S. Senate and Representatives Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-P.A.) introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House

Designed to remove institutional, cultural, and curricular barriers that prevent students from studying abroad, the bill would establish a competitive grant program for U.S. higher education institutions to help them fund programs that make it easier for a wider and more diverse community of students to benefit from a study abroad experience. 

The legislation leverages and codifies an existing federal grant program, the U.S. State Department’s Increase and Diversify Education Abroad for U.S. Students (IDEAS) program and renames it in honor of the late U.S. Senator Paul Simon of Illinois. In a change from the 2022 bill, it provides priority to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Minority Serving Institutions, institutions that qualify for the Strengthening Institutions Program, and study abroad programs with a world language learning component. Grant funds can also be used to offset individual student costs related to study abroad, which can be a significant barrier to participation.

Fanta Aw, PhD, executive director and CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, said:

“Study abroad experiences are essential to the career-readiness and intercultural competency of U.S. college graduates and by extension, our country’s workforce. For too long, minority, first-generation, community college students, and students with disabilities have faced barriers to accessing these opportunities. We applaud the bill’s champions for their commitment to ensuring that all students at all types of institutions have access to study abroad programs, in a wide range of countries.

“NAFSA joins APLU, ACE, and approximately 50 other associations in applauding the bill’s original cosponsors for their continued leadership on this issue. We stand ready as an eager partner in securing the necessary support and funding to implement this program.”

Martin H. Simon, son of Senator Simon, said: 
“In 2003, my father spent most of his final year on this earth lobbying his former colleagues on Capitol Hill to embrace the idea of making study abroad the norm, and not the exception, in this country. He believed that by giving more young Americans the opportunity to experience other cultures, first-hand, that we might build bridges of understanding so needed in the wake of September 11, 2001.

“One of my father’s protégés, Sen. Dick Durbin, has worked hard to keep Dad’s vision for this program alive and I thank him along with Senator Wicker and their colleagues in the House for reintroducing this bipartisan legislation.

“I’d also like to thank my friends at NAFSA who have been there from the beginning, championing Dad’s goals for this program. He believed strongly in diversifying access to study abroad and ensuring that more Americans experience the developing world, not just traditional European destinations. I look forward to working with NAFSA as we push for passage of the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Act of 2023!”

Mark Becker, president of Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) said: 
“International experience is essential for workers in today’s global economy. We’re grateful to Senators Durbin and Wicker as well as Representatives Schneider and Fitzpatrick  for their leadership spearheading the bipartisan Simon Act to boost study abroad participation and bolster U.S. global competitiveness. We urge Congress to advance this critical legislation without delay.”

Sample Tweet: NAFSA thanks @SenatorDurbin, @SenatorWicker, @RepSchneider & @RepBrianFitz for their leadership on expanding access to #StudyAbroad by reintroducing the #SimonBill.

Background on the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act of 2023
Research demonstrates the benefits of study abroad for U.S. students: increased graduation rates, higher grade point averages, and the intangible positives of experiencing a different culture. Despite these proven benefits, a mere 10 percent of U.S. college students study abroad before they graduate, meaning that 90 percent of graduates are entering the workforce without the international skills, knowledge, and experiences necessary to position them for success in the global economy. Minority, first-generation, community college students and students with disabilities are also significantly underrepresented in study abroad programs.

The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act has long enjoyed broad support, as it has been introduced in both the House and Senate in past sessions of Congress and has been passed by the House twice.  

More than 50 organizations, including NAFSA, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the American Council on Education (ACE) and have already come out in support of the Simon legislation. The full list, as well as more information on the benefits of study abroad to U.S. students, may be viewed at