Thursday, February 26, 2009

New Push for Federal Aid for Abroad Study

The push for a five-fold increase in the number of U.S. college and university students going abroad is getting a renewal in the Senate.

Against the backdrop of President Barack Obama’s advocacy of greater global engagement by Americans, Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, and Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, reintroduced the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act on Wednesday.

The bill seeks to provide funding to bring about the Lincoln Commission’s recommendation, adopted in 2005, that 1 million Americans be studying abroad yearly by 2015. A version passed the House in 2007 but stalled procedurally in the Senate.

While 55 percent of high school students say they plan to study abroad in college, only about 1 percent actually do. And, according to the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, almost two-thirds of those who do go abroad study in western Europe.

The bill reintroduced on Wednesday also seeks to increases study-abroad opportunities for underrepresented student groups and to increase study abroad in nontraditional locations where most of the world’s population increase is taking place.

Prospects for passage are unclear in when Congress and the president are focused on the recession. Any approval of funding for study abroad initiatives would also have to go through the appropriations process.

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