The Paul Simon Study Abroad Act is being introduced this Thursday (4/11/19), and we are calling on our readers to join us is in supporting it. To ensure that the act is passed, contact your congressperson now to ask them to pledge their support. You can look up to see who your congress person is and how to contact them here.
The Simon Act was one of the Joint National Committee for Languages/ National Council for Languages and International Studies’ (JNCL-NCLIS’) key “legislative asks” during its Language Advocacy Day 2019. The Act aims to make study abroad accessible for all students, regardless of their economic standing. Over 80% of college freshmen want to study abroad, yet only 10% of students study abroad before they graduate, and minority students are greatly underrepresented within those numbers. The Simon Program provides a path to correct this imbalance and ensure that significantly more students graduate college with the international knowledge and experience essential for success in today’s global economy.
NAFSA has long advocated for a new federal study abroad grant program to incentivize colleges and universities to remove the barriers that keep students from studying abroad. The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act, introduced in the Senate by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), would create such a program with four key objectives:
- Ensure at least 1,000,000 students study abroad every year.
- Increase the diversity of students studying abroad to reflect the undergraduate population.
- Encourage a greater portion of study abroad to occur in nontraditional study abroad locations.
- Strengthen the commitment of colleges and universities to expand study abroad opportunities.
The bill was previously cosponsored by Roger F. Wicker [R-MS], Sen. Wicker, Roger F. [R-MS], Jack Reed [D-RI], Thad Cochran [R-MS], Jeff Merkley [D-OR], Sherrod Brown [D-OH], Dianne Feinstein [D-CA], Jeanne Shaheen [D-NH], and Christopher A. Coons [D-DE].
In creating the act, congress made the following findings:
- (1) To prepare students for success in the modern global economy, opportunities for study abroad should be included as part of a well-rounded education.
- (2) Study abroad programs provide students with unparalleled access to international knowledge, an unmatched opportunity to learn foreign languages, and a unique environment for developing cultural understanding, all of which are knowledge and skills needed in today’s global economy.
- (3) Less than 2% of all enrolled postsecondary students in the U.S. study abroad for credit in any given year, and minority students, first generation college students, community college students, and students with disabilities are significantly underrepresented in study abroad participation.
- (4) Congress authorized the establishment of the Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program pursuant to section 104 of the Miscellaneous Appropriations and Offsets Act, 2004 (division H of Public Law 108–199). Pursuant to its mandate, the Lincoln Commission submitted to Congress and the President a report of its recommendations for greatly expanding the opportunity for students at institutions of higher education in the United States to study abroad, with special emphasis on studying in developing nations.
- (5) According to the Lincoln Commission, “Experience shows that leadership from administrators and faculty will drive the number of study abroad participants higher and improve the quality of programs. Such leadership is the only way that study abroad will become an integral part of the undergraduate experience.”. A competitive grant program is necessary to encourage and support such leadership.
The act addresses the issues by laying out the following purposes:
The purposes of the Simon Act are—
- (1) to ensure that significantly more students have access to quality study abroad opportunities;
- (2) to ensure that the diversity of students studying abroad reflects the diversity of students and institutions of higher education in the United States;
- (3) to encourage greater diversity in study abroad destinations by increasing the portion of study abroad that takes place in nontraditional study abroad destinations, especially in developing countries; and
- (4) to encourage a greater commitment by institutions of higher education to expand study abroad opportunities.