Ensuring the Global Competency of U.S. College Graduates

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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, less than 10 percent 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 2022 (H.R. 9145/S.5098), introduced by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and U.S. Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and John Katko (R-N.Y.) 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.  

Community of Support

The following organizations support the Simon legislation:

  • 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 German
  • American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese
  • American Council on Education
  • American Councils for International Education
  • Association of American Universities
  • Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
  • California Language Teachers Association
  • Coalition for a Multilingual RI
  • 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 North Carolina
  • Forum on Education Abroad
  • Fund for Education Abroad
  • Global Virginia
  • Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
  • IES Abroad
  • Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling
  • Indiana Foreign Language Teachers Association
  • Institute of International Education
  • International Association for Language Learning Technology
  • Joint National Committee for Languages
  • MARACAS/Learning Kaleidoscope 
  • Massachusetts Foreign Language Association
  • Michigan World Language Association
  • Mississippi Foreign Language Association
  • Montana Association of Foreign Language Teachers
  • 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 Committee for Latin and Greek
  • National Council for Languages and International Studies
  • National Education Association
  • National Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations
  • Network of Business Language Educators
  • Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
  • PA State Modern Language Association
  • Partners of the Americas
  • Providence Public Schools 
  • Southwest Conference on Language Teaching
  • Thurgood Marshall College Fund
  • United Negro College Fund
  • West Virginia Foreign Language Teachers Association
  • World Language Initiative - Montana

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