Ensuring the Global Competency of U.S. College Graduates

Simon Award Infographic

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. 

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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. Yet, only 10% of U.S. college students study abroad before they graduate. In a post-pandemic world, increasing access to study abroad will be critical to ensuring that students gain the skills, knowledge, and experiences necessary to maintain the leadership of the United States in tackling global challenges, like pandemics, and succeeding in a global economy.  

The Simon Program

The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act of 2023 (S. 2261/H.R. 4588), introduced by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and U.S. Representatives Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.), seeks to expand access to study abroad for U.S. college students by enhancing the State Department's Increase and Diversify Education Abroad for U.S. Students (IDEAS) program and formally renaming it as the "Senator Paul 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, the legislation would advance four national goals:   

  1. One million U.S. college students will study abroad annually for credit
  2. 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
  3. A significantly greater proportion of study abroad will occur in nontraditional destinations outside Western Europe  
  4. Higher education institutions will make study abroad a critical component of a quality higher education

U.S. higher 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.  

Text of Senate Bill S. 2261

Senator Durbin press release

Representative Fitzpatrick press release

Take Action

Send an email to your members of Congress urging them to cosponsor the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act using NAFSA's simple advocacy tool. If your elected officials already do, the sample message will reflect that.

Community of Support

The following organizations support the Simon legislation:

  • Academic Programs International 
  • Alliance for International Exchange
  • American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers
  • American Association of Community Colleges
  • American Association of State Colleges and Universities
  • American Association of Teachers of French
  • American Council on Education
  • American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages 
  • American Councils for International Education
  • Association of American Universities
  • Association of Marshall Scholars
  • Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
  • California Language Teachers Association
  • CETRA Language Solutions
  • Computer-Assisted Language Instruction Consortium
  • Delaware Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages 
  • Diversity Abroad Network
  • Fluency Consulting 
  • Foreign Language Association of Georgia
  • Foreign Language Association of Virginia
  • Forum on Education Abroad
  • Fund for Education Abroad
  • Global Virginia
  • Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
  • IES Abroad
  • Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling
  • International Association for Language Learning Technology
  • International Educators of Illinois
  • Institute of International Education
  • Joint National Committee for Languages
  • Kentucky World Language Association
  • Language Magazine
  • Linguistic Society of America
  • Michigan World Language Association
  • NAFSA: Association of International Educators
  • National Association for College Admission Counseling
  • National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education
  • National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
  • National Council for Languages and International Studies
  • National Education Association
  • New Mexico Organization of Language Educators
  • Partners of the Americas
  • Pennsylvania Council for International Education  
  • Southern Conference on Language Teaching
  • Southwest Conference on Language Teaching
  • TESOL International Association
  • Thurgood Marshall College Fund
  • United Negro College Fund
  • University of Kentucky
  • Vermont Foreign Language Association 
  • West Virginia Foreign Language Teachers Association
  • Wisconsin Association for Language Teachers

If you wish to be added to this list of supporters, contact NAFSA Public Policy