The effort to expand study abroad opportunities for American college students took a big step forward today when the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act was included in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.).
The Simon Act aims to dramatically increase the number of American undergraduates who study abroad in quality programs across the globe, focusing particular attention on ensuring access to study abroad across the college demographic and encouraging study abroad in the developing world. Currently, only about one percent of U.S. undergraduates study abroad, despite surveys that indicate that more than three-quarters of Americans believe it is important to do so and a rising chorus of business, education, and government leaders concerned about Americans’ lack of preparedness in engaging and communicating with the world.
The Simon bill has garnered 32 co-sponsors in the U.S. Senate, where it was introduced in February by Senators Dick Durbin (D – Ill.) and Roger Wicker (R- Miss.). The version of the Simon bill included in the House Foreign Relations Authorization Act is identical to the Senate bill.
Last year, the bill passed the House with unanimous support and enjoyed strong bipartisan support in the Senate, including that of then-senators President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, where it was one step short of passage when the legislative clock expired last fall. The Simon Act has been endorsed by more than forty higher education and international exchange organizations.
WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW
- Join the Facebook group in support of study abroad and invite 10 of your Facebook friends to be a part of the movement.
- Be on the lookout for NAFSA’s Action Alert asking you to voice your support for the legislation. If you haven’t done so already, you can sign up to be a member of NAFSA’s Advocacy-Centered Team and make a difference for international education.