Washington, April 11, 2019 — NAFSA: Association of International Educators applauds Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) for introducing the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act. The bipartisan bill aims to increase study abroad opportunities for U.S. undergraduate students and allow more graduates to develop the critical skills that will enable them to thrive in today’s workforce.
In the increasingly global economy, seventy-five percent of employers say it is important for their staff to have a global perspective. Sadly, less than two percent of college students in the U.S. have the opportunity to study abroad each year, and only 10 percent of graduates will have studied abroad during their college career. The Simon bill would address this gap and ensure that study abroad participants will more closely represent the demographics of the undergraduate population in terms of gender, ethnicity, students with disabilities, income level, and field of study. Study abroad participants gain valuable language skills, deepen their ability to connect with people of different backgrounds, and enjoy a greater understanding of cultures around the world—skills that will make them more attractive to future employers. By increasing access to study abroad, this legislation will ensure more college students will graduate prepared to enter the global economy.
“American students studying abroad are ambassadors for our values and ideals. When they return home, they bring the knowledge, language proficiency, and cultural understanding necessary to compete and build ties in our increasingly globalized economy,” Wicker said. “Senator Paul Simon understood the importance of these programs, and this act builds on his legacy.”
“Senator Paul Simon always knew the value of having an understanding of how the world works and how we are all interconnected in one way or another,” Durbin said. “This bill builds on Senator Simon’s vision by vastly expanding opportunities for American students to study abroad. By giving the next generation of students the chance to learn away from home, and gain experiences that can shape their worldview, we will better prepare them to lead successful lives.”
“The proposed Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act is an excellent example of leaders working together to open opportunities for college students to learn about the world and gain insights that will help them thrive in the future,” said Esther D. Brimmer, NAFSA Executive Director and CEO.
The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act was drafted on recommendations presented by the Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program and in the spirit of the late Senator Paul Simon of Illinois, who wanted every American to know more about the world and believed all college students should have a global education.
The legislation has four goals:
- boost study abroad participation to at least one million U.S. students every year;
- expand the diversity of participants to more accurately reflect the undergraduate population;
- increase the diversity of study abroad destinations; and,
- encourage higher education institutions to strengthen their commitment to study abroad.
Designed to remove institutional, cultural, and curricular barriers that prevent students from studying abroad, the cost-effective Simon model would allow colleges and universities to apply for competitive grants that would enable them to institute programs that would expand access to study abroad. Higher education institutions could apply for these grants individually or in consortium. NAFSA’s report, “Moving the Needle: Leveraging Innovation for Institutional Change in Study Abroad,” found that even the act of applying for a leveraging grant encourages colleges and universities to make a more long-term, sustainable investment in study abroad.
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. NAFSA thanks Senators Durbin and Wicker for their continued leadership and commitment to working in a bipartisan fashion on this important legislation.
Forty-four organizations have already come out in support of the Simon legislation. The full list may be viewed on the NAFSA website.
Sample Tweet: NAFSA thanks @SenatorDurbin & @SenatorWicker for their continued leadership on #StudyAbroad with the reintroduction of the #SimonBill https://bit.ly/2IuvtZ1
About NAFSA: With more than 10,000 members, NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the world's largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education. Visit us at www.nafsa.org/press. To learn more about our advocacy efforts on behalf of international education, visit www.ConnectingOurWorld.org and @ConnectOurWorld on Twitter.