The experiences gained from studying oversees can be valuable assets when entering the job market. However, only about 1 percent of U.S. undergraduates study abroad, according to the Associated Press.
That’s why U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s proposed bill to create the Sen. Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation and other potential similar efforts must be supported.
“Expanding study abroad should be a national priority,” Durbin said to the AP in 2009 while reintroducing the legislation. “The future of the country depends on globally literate citizens who are at ease in the world.”
The foundation would be a “public-private entity,” with $80 million allocated towards sending students overseas.
Though they make up only 63 percent of enrolled undergraduates, whites make up 83 percent of study abroad students. Blacks make up 13.5 percent of undergraduates and only 4.2 percent of study abroad students and Hispanics make up 12 percent of undergraudates and only 6 percent of students studying abroad, according to the Institute of International Education.
The median household income of white families is $65,000, $39,000 for black households and $40,466 for Hispanic households, according to census.gov.
This reinforces arguments claiming that financial constraints are a primary reason why many college students, and in particular minorities, don’t travel abroad to study at foreign universities.
The lack of study abroad students is not just a loss for individual undergrads, but also a missed opportunity for the entire U.S., as future leaders are not gaining a much-needed worldly view that’s critical in a globalized world.
In addition, the lack of diversity among students who do travel abroad may present foreigners with a distorted picture of the U.S.
Many universities are trying to address the situation themselves, yet, as shown by USF’s failed attempt earlier this month to create a travel abroad fee as part of student tuition, their efforts may not be fruitful.
Opponents argued that USF’s travel abroad fee would go to only a small portion of students, which they argued isn’t fair since all students would pay the fee. On the other hand, not all students attend sporting events but every student is charged an athletics fee.
Hopefully, Durbin’s bill will pass and be followed by much-needed efforts to create a larger and more diverse group of college students who study abroad.
Traveling to foreign nations for study offers to undergraduates lessons that cannot be taught in a traditional classroom setting, making it all the more important.