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Act reintroduced to boost US study abroad

A bill seeking to boost study abroad among US students is being introduced in the Senate. It comes after the Open Doors data indicated that study abroad student numbers dropped by some 91% in the 2020/21 academic year, falling to 14,549 from 162,633 in 2019/20.

Less than 10% of US college students study abroad before they graduate. Photo: pexels

The Fund for Education Abroad has also announced that $285,000 has been offered to 68 US college students for Spring 2023

On November 15, senators democrat Dick Durbin and republican Roger Wicker introduced the bipartisan senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act to the upper house.

Named after the late US senator Paul Simon of Illinois who passed away in 2003, the act seeks to provide a competitive grant program for higher education institutions to expand access to study abroad.

The act has been introduced to both the House and Senate in past sessions, and passed the House twice.

For the first time, this iteration of the bill would allow grant funds to be used to help offset individual student costs related to study abroad, campaigners noted.

The Fund for Education Abroad has also announced that $285,000 has been offered to 68 US college students, who are traditionally underrepresented in study abroad, for spring 2023 programs.

With the addition of this latest cohort, a total of 935 FEA Scholars will have received $3 million in scholarships.

“Twelve years of intention and collaboration have paid off, inspiring us anew to manifest our vision of a world where international education is accessible to all students,” FEA executive director Angela Schaffer said in a statement.

The latest bill is “an important step forward in NAFSA’s long-standing campaign to harness federal resources to increase US students’ access to the mind-expanding and career-enriching benefits of a study abroad experience”, according to the organisation’s executive director and CEO, Esther D. Brimmer.

“All graduates from a US 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 US population will graduate prepared to enter tomorrow’s workforce, just as senator Simon envisioned.”

Senator Simon – who also has a campus internationalisation award named after him – “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”, his son, Martin Simon, added.

“[My dad] believed strongly in diversifying access to study abroad”

“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 bipartisan legislation.

“[My dad] believed strongly in diversifying access to study abroad and ensuring that more Americans experience the developing world, not just traditional European destinations.”

NAFSA joins APLU, ACE, and more than 50 other associations in “applauding the bill’s original cosponsors for their continued leadership on this issue”, Brimmer added.

“We stand ready as an eager partner in securing the necessary support and funding to implement this program.”

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