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The Way Forward

The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act (S. 1198/H.R. 4555) was introduced by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) in the Senate on April 11, 2019 and by Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL) and John Katko (R-NY) in the House on September 27, 2019. The bill has passed the House of Representatives in two previous Congresses and has enjoyed strong bipartisan support.

NAFSA urges Congress to support this important piece of legislation, which would make an important contribution to ensuring that American college students have the international skills and understanding necessary for success in today’s global economy.

Ensuring the Global Competency of U.S. College Graduates

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Simon Infographic thumbnail

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. Currently, however, only about one percent of all college students study abroad each year. 

The Simon Program

The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act, 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, would create a modest program of challenge grants to incentivize colleges and universities to make study abroad an integral part of higher education in order to advance three 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

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:

  • NAFSA: Association of International Educators
  • Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
  • Academic Programs International (API)
  • American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese Metro New York Chapter
  • American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers
  • American Association of Community Colleges
  • American Association of Teachers of French
  • American Association of Teachers of German
  • American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese
  • American Council on Education
  • American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
  • American Councils for International Education
  • Arizona Language Association
  • Association of American Universities
  • CETRA Language Solutions
  • Colorado Congress of Foreign Language Teachers (CCFLT)
  • Computer-Assisted Language Instruction Consortium
  • Connecticut Council of Language Teachers
  • Diversity Abroad Network
  • Dual Language Education of New Mexico
  • Ferris State University
  • Foreign Language Association of Georgia
  • Foreign Language Educators of New Jersey
  • Forum on Education Abroad
  • Fund for Education Abroad
  • Glastonbury Public Schools
  • Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
  • IES Abroad
  • Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling
  • Institute of International Education
  • International Association for Language Learning Technology
  • Joint National Committee for Languages
  • Kentucky Institute for International Studies(KIIS)
  • Language Magazine
  • Linguistic Society of America
  • MaFLA
  • Modern Language Association of Philadelphia and Vicinity
  • National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
  • National Association for College Admission Counseling
  • National Committee for Latin and Greek
  • National Council for Languages and International Studies
  • National Education Association
  • National Network for Early Language Learning
  • New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers
  • Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
  • Partners of the Americas
  • Penn State University, New Kensington Campus
  • Southwest Conference on Language Teaching
  • West Virginia Foreign Language Teachers Association
  • Wisconsin Association for Language Teachers
  • World Learning / School for International Training

Contact
If you wish to be added to be added to this list of supporters, contact Mark Farmer, director, higher education and public policy at NAFSA.