Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL) and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) have introduced the latest incarnation of the bipartisan Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act. This bill would establish a competitive grant program, run by the Department of Education, for colleges and universities to expand study abroad opportunities for undergraduate students. It, like previous versions, is named after the late Illinois Senator, Paul Simon, who encouraged Congress to come together and prepare the next generation of Americans with the global knowledge and skills needed in an increasingly interconnected world.
“Senator Paul Simon dedicated his life to improving the lives of hardworking Illinoisans and creating new opportunities for our young people, and I’m proud to honor his legacy of service by introducing the Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act,” Congresswoman Bustos said. “Since Paul Simon’s time in public life, study abroad programs have become even more important tools for colleges and universities to prepare students to succeed in our connected world. This bill will help our next generation of leaders to learn how to operate in our modern global society. Paul Simon was an important person in my life and I work hard every day to uphold his tradition of bipartisan leadership, so I am very proud to introduce this legislation with my friend, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.”
“We live in an increasingly globalized world and as a former Florida certified teacher, I know that education is the key to success,” Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen said. “In today’s interconnected world, students must gain foreign language skills and the ability to learn from other cultures. Study abroad programs are an excellent way to learn these essential skills. However, the ability to study abroad remains just a dream for rural, minority, and first-generation college students. Cheri Bustos and I filed this bill to address this problem by establishing a competitive grant program that will allow universities to provide low-income and other underrepresented undergraduates with the means to be able to study abroad…Only by learning about different parts of our world can our nation’s future leaders effectively engage with a wide variety of people and situations that will prepare them to thrive in an interconnected economy.”
“The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act is, at its core, a jobs bill. Its implementation would ensure our nation is prepared to compete in a globalized economy and solve international challenges that know no borders,” stated Esther D. Brimmer, executive director and CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators. “We need more graduates who speak a second language, who understand other cultures and who are comfortable living and working in a global setting. One of the best ways for students to gain these skills is by studying abroad. It is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ for a subset of college students but should be an essential component of a quality higher education. We applaud Representatives Ros-Lehtinen and Bustos for taking the lead on this vital piece of legislation and urge Congress to quickly move it through to a vote.”
Created from recommendations put forth by the Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program and the vision of the late Senator Paul Simon, the legislation aims to:
- Increase the overall number of undergraduate students studying abroad annually to one million within ten years;
- Increase the number of nontraditional and minority students studying abroad so that the demographics of study abroad participation reflect the demographics of the undergraduate population; and
- Increase the number of students who study abroad in nontraditional destinations, with an emphasis on study abroad in developing countries.
This bill is supported by Language Magazine, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, Partners of the Americas, the American Council on Education, the American Association of Community Colleges, the Forum on Education Abroad, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, the Association of American Universities, the Fund for Education Abroad, and the American Councils for International Education.
Bipartisan companion legislation, S. 601, has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).