Durbin, Wicker, Leahy Reintroduce Legislation To Promote Study Abroad

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) today introduced the bipartisan Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act, which creates a competitive grant program for institutions of higher education to expand study abroad opportunities for American college students.  Study abroad is an important component of a well-rounded post-secondary education, giving students the opportunity to engage with other cultures, enhance foreign language skills, and expand international knowledge through firsthand experience.  Named after the late Illinois U.S. Senator Paul Simon – who preached the value of international education as vital to the United States’ economic and national security – this bill aims to increase the number and diversity of undergraduate students studying abroad annually to one million within ten years. 

“Senator Paul Simon always knew the value of having an understanding of how the world works and how we are all interconnected in one way or another,” Durbin said. “This bill builds on Senator Simon’s vision by vastly expanding opportunities for American students to study abroad. By giving the next generation of students the chance to learn away from home, and gain experiences that can shape their worldview, we will better prepare them to lead successful lives.”

“American students studying abroad are ambassadors for our values and ideals.  When they return home, they bring the knowledge, language proficiency, and cultural understanding necessary to compete and build ties in our increasingly globalized economy,” Wicker said. “Senator Paul Simon understood the importance of these programs, and this act builds on his legacy.”

“Senator Simon knew that study abroad is an investment that multiplies over time and in many ways.  It’s an enriching experience for students, for their communities and for the nation,” Leahy said.

“The proposed Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act is an excellent example of leaders working together to open opportunities for college students to learn about the world and gain insights that will help them thrive in the future,” said Esther D. Brimmer, NAFSA Executive Director and CEO.

“The United States needs to vastly and rapidly increase the number and diversity of its students studying abroad.  The Simon Act would help do exactly that,” said Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) President Peter McPherson, who served as Chair of the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Commission. “Study abroad experience is indispensable in today’s global economy. And crucially, the Simon bill would increase the number of students studying in non-traditional countries, especially in the developing world. We thank Senators Durbin and Wicker for their work crafting bipartisan legislation that would significantly strengthen America’s economic and strategic standing in the world through more skilled, globally fluent college graduates.”

Currently, less than two percent of all enrolled post-secondary students in the U.S. participate in study abroad, and participation isn’t representative of the broad diversity seen on today’s college campuses. 

The goals of the Paul Simon Study Abroad Program are the following:

  • Increase the overall number of undergraduate students studying abroad annually to one million students within ten years;
  • Increase the number of minority students, first-generation college students, community college students, and students with disabilities 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 developing countries, while maintaining health and safety guidelines and procedures informed by Department of State travel advisories and other appropriate Federal agencies and resources.

Durbin first introduced this legislation in 2006 as the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Act based on the recommendations of the Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program – of which Durbin was a member. 

This bill is supported by NAFSA: Association of International Educators, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, 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, Computer-Assisted Language Instruction Consortium, Connecticut Council of Language Teachers, Diversity Abroad Network, Dual Language Education of New Mexico, Foreign Language Association of Georgia, Forum on Education Abroad, Fund for Education Abroad, Glastonbury Public Schools, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, IES Abroad, Institute of International Education, International Association for Language Learning Technology, Joint National Committee for Languages, Language Magazine, Linguistic Society of America, Massachusetts Foreign Language Association, Modern Language Association of Philadelphia and Vicinity, 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, Pennsylvania State University, New Kensington Campus, Southwest Conference on Language Teaching, Wisconsin Association for Language Teachers, World Learning / School for International Training, and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.