Bill could make study abroad more accessible

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A new federal bill recently introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate plans to make studying abroad easier for American college students.

The Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act of 2007, introduced in March, plans to aid more students in studying abroad. The eventual objective is to get one million students annually participating in studying abroad.

Susan Morgan, NMU’s study abroad and international student advisor, said if the bill passes it will aid in university grant funding of study abroad programs and make study abroad opportunities accessible to more students.

“I think the bill is a fantastic investment,” said John Weting, director of the International Affairs Office.

Weting said every student should have the opportunity to study abroad and this bill will help more students have the opportunity to do this.

Currently at Northern, roughly 100 students study abroad annually, Morgan said.

In the 2003-2004 academic year, 191,000 American students studied abroad, according to the Open Doors report, issued by the Institue of International Education.

“These numbers are really low considering how many college students there are,” Morgan said.

Mike Duckwall a senior political science and economics major, has studied abroad and said that it’s time for more people to learn about different cultures because no matter what one does for a career, he or she will encounter people from different cultures.

The bill proposes to increase students’ “global literacy” and introduce them to more non-traditional study-abroad countries.

Students should study abroad because it shows time and money management, self confidence, language and culture diversity skills, Weting said.

“Studying abroad can be a resume builder,” Weting said.

The bill was introduced by representatives Tom Lantos, D-Calif. and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Since the bill is at the beginning stages of the law-making process, it is un known if the bill will pass and what, if any, changes will be made to it.

Both Michigan senators are co-signers on the bill. A decision should be rendered before the end of the 2008 Congressional term, Morgan said.

“I am very hopeful that bill will pass,” she said. “It seems to have a strong following.”