Lance LeLoup, associate vice provost of International Programs at Washington State University, today praised the introduction of federal legislation to create a national study abroad fellowship program that aims to increase the number of U.S. students studying abroad to 1 million per year.

The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act of 2007 was introduced Monday, March 12, in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee respectively. The program would be administered by an independent entity and would provide key support to expand college students’ opportunities to study abroad. 

WSU has made internationalizing the undergraduate curriculum an important priority. Last year, WSU sent more than 500 students abroad and hopes to reach 600 participants during the current academic year. WSU students can chose from hundreds of opportunities in over 70 countries and are encouraged to find a program that allows them to take one or more classes in their major or minor while abroad.

“When WSU students study abroad, the experience not only enriches their own lives, but they bring a global perspective back to the classroom here and impact fellow students,” LeLoup said.

WSU faculty-led study abroad programming also has grown, from one program several years ago to 20 programs this year. These further enrich the curriculum by allowing faculty to engage students in experiential learning around the globe.”

“Participating in an education abroad experience is often the highlight of a student’s undergraduate experience. Providing this opportunity for our students is critical to our mission of providing the best undergraduate education at a research university,” said Robert Bates, provost and executive vice president.

The legislation is named after the late Senator Paul Simon (D-IL) who was a strong proponent of international education.  His efforts led to the creation of the bipartisan Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program.  Many of the recommendations contained in the commission’s 2005 report Global Competence and National Needs: One Million Students Studying Abroad are included in this legislation. 

Currently, about 200,000 undergraduate students study abroad each year.  The bill’s objectives include ensuring that the demographics of the study-abroad participation will reflect the U.S. undergraduate population and that an increasing portion of students will go to currently nontraditional study-abroad destinations.

Last year a similar bill in the Senate received overwhelming bipartisan support and had 46 co-sponsors before the session ended.  Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Norm Coleman (R-MN) will re-introduce a Senate bill in the near future.

For more information on the Abraham Lincoln Commission on Study Abroad, please visit www.lincolncommission.org.

For another look at the bill’s introduction, see the NAFSA: Association of International Educators Web site:  http://nafsa.org/press_releases.sec/press_releases.pg/simonbill31207