Washington - Today Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) introduced the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act of 2022 in the U.S. Senate. Designed to remove institutional, cultural, and curricular barriers that prevent students from studying abroad, the legislation shifts from prior versions of the bill in that it codifies and strengthens an existing federal grant program, the U.S. State Department’s Increase and Diversify Education Abroad for U.S. Students (IDEAS) program and honors the late U.S. Senator Paul Simon of Illinois. Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and John Katko (R-N.Y.) introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House last month.
Esther D. Brimmer, DPhil, executive director and CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, said:
“Today’s bill introduction is an important step forward in NAFSA’s long-standing campaign to harness federal resources to increase U.S. students’ access to the mind-expanding and career-enriching benefits of a study abroad experience. All graduates from a U.S. college or university should possess the skills and knowledge necessary to compete in the global economy and study abroad is an effective means to achieving this end. By increasing and diversifying study abroad participation through a proven program, the Simon Bill ensures a greater number and cross-section of the U.S. population will graduate prepared to enter tomorrow’s workforce, just as Senator Simon envisioned.
“NAFSA joins APLU, ACE, and more than 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 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.
“Two of my father’s protégés, Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Cheri Bustos, have worked hard to keep Dad’s vision for this program alive and I thank them and their Republican colleagues for introducing this bi-partisan 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 2022!”
Mark Becker, president of the 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 Bustos and Katko for their steadfast 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.”
Background on the Senator Simon Study Abroad Program Act of 2022
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on student mobility, making the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act especially crucial. The Open Doors 2022 report published by the Institute of International Education in partnership with the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs shows that the total number of U.S. students studying abroad during the academic year 2020-2021 declined by 91%, to 14,546 students.
This precipitous drop is concerning. 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, less than 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 program.
The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act of 2022 would provide a competitive grant program for higher education institutions to help them fund programs that would expand access to study abroad. In a departure from prior versions, the bill proposes formally renaming the State Department’s Increase and Diversify Education Abroad for U.S. Students (IDEAS) program the “Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program” in honor of the late U.S. Senator Paul Simon of Illinois. It would also, for the first time, allow grant funds to be used to help offset individual student costs related to study abroad-- which can be a significant barrier.
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: Association of International Educators and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) 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 www.nafsa.org/Simon.
Sample Tweet: NAFSA thanks @SenatorDurbin, @SenatorWicker, @RepCheri and @RepJohnKatko for their continued leadership on expanding access to #StudyAbroad by reintroducing the #SimonBill. www.nafsa.org/Simon
About NAFSA: Serving more than 10,000 members and international educators worldwide, NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and exchange. Visit us at www.nafsa.org/press. To learn more about our advocacy efforts on behalf of international education, visit www.nafsa.org/takeaction. Resources to guide our members on these issues can be found at www.nafsa.org/reginfo.