A Passport in the Sock Drawer

At Generation Study Abroad summit, panelists discuss how to get a more diverse group of students abroad, including students enrolled at minority-serving institutions.

October 25, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Council on International Educational Exchange has pledged to fund 10,000 passports for students who apply at “Passport Caravan” events it’s holding at campuses across the country. To date, CIEE’s president and CEO, James P. Pellow, said the Passport Caravan project has issued 2,800 passports, 367 of which were funded by colleges that matched CIEE’s commitment, while the remainder have been funded by CIEE, a nonprofit exchange organization based in Portland, Me., that partners with universities to provide study abroad programs.

“What’s really interesting about the students that show up for these Passport Caravan drives is that they’re highly diverse and highly challenged economically,” Pellow said Monday at the opening plenary for the second annual Generation Study Abroad Summit organized by the Institute of International Education. “About 55 percent of students are students of color and about 48 percent are Pell eligible. It’s a very rich, very diverse group of students that typically do not participate in our semester programs who now have a passport in their sock drawer.”

This week’s summit in Washington is part of the Generation Study Abroad initiative, launched by IIE in 2014, with the goal of doubling the number of Americans studying abroad by 2020 and diversifying the pool of students participating.

More than 700 educational institutions or organizations, including 408 U.S.-based colleges or universities and 189 international universities or organizations, as well as education associations, study abroad providers and government entities, have signed on to the Generation Study Abroad initiative by making pledges aimed at increasing study abroad participation.

IIE on Monday announced that 12 partners had met the commitments they’d made to increase study abroad participation using a variety of strategies that include developing new short-term study abroad programs for freshmen, expanding the size of the study abroad office, creating a database of study abroad programs by field of study, designating faculty members as study abroad advisers and providing scholarship funding. Generation Study Abroad partners have collectively raised more than $55 million for study abroad scholarships, according to IIE.

“Just two years after joining Generation Study Abroad, colleges and universities across the country are seeing measurable results in their study abroad participation rates,” Allan Goodman, IIE’s president and CEO, said in a written statement. “Studying abroad is one of the best ways to prepare to enter and succeed in the interconnected, globalized workforce, yet 90 percent of American college students do not study or intern outside of the United States. We owe it to the next generation of Americans to explain why study abroad is more crucial than ever and to find ways to make it more accessible to a wider range of students.”

One of the sessions on Monday focused specifically on increasing study abroad participation at minority-serving institutions. Pellow of CIEE -- one of the lead organizational sponsors of the conference -- spoke on that panel as well. CIEE has joined with the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Minority Serving Institutions in a three-year partnership intended to increase study abroad participation at MSIs through presidential and faculty training workshops and student scholarships. In the spring CIEE pledged to donate all exhibitor fees for its annual conferences from 2016 through 2018 for study abroad scholarships for students from minority-serving institutions.

Minority-serving institutions educate about 20 percent of all U.S. undergraduates, according to Marybeth Gasman, a professor of higher education at Penn and the director of the center. But, as Gasman noted in her presentation on Monday, students from MSIs made up about 3.6 percent of all American college students going abroad in 2012-13 -- 10,573 out of 289,408 students.

“One of the reasons why we all came together is that we want to change that,” Gasman said. “The majority of students who study abroad are white” -- 74.3 percent, according to the latest national data collected by IIE -- “and we also know that we don’t have enough students from minority-serving institutions that are studying abroad. We are trying to fundamentally change that in our partnership.”

David Wilson, the president of Morgan State University, a historically black university in Baltimore, spoke of increasing international student enrollment -- now around 11 percent -- and growing study abroad participation at his campus.

Wilson leads an alliance of more than 40 HBCUs that formed in response to a Chinese government commitment to provide 1,000 scholarships for students from historically black institutions. Morgan State’s first group of 10 students went to China in 2015 and a second group of 14 went last summer. In his PowerPoint presentation, Wilson highlighted several other outbound initiatives in Africa and Latin America including a health-oriented program in Cameroon, a program focused on teaching English as a foreign language in Colombia and a trip by the university’s choir to Cuba this past summer. (Statistics presented by Gasman earlier in the presentation suggest that students at HBCUs differ somewhat from the overall student profile in terms of choice of destination. While the top destinations for all U.S. students studying abroad are the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France and China, for students at HBCUs China is the top destination, followed by Ghana, Spain, France and Brazil.)

Wilson said that Morgan State has established partnership agreements with more than 30 international universities in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America and the Caribbean. “The major barrier for us at Morgan is the ability to obtain the financial resources that are necessary to both support the student at Morgan who wants to go abroad and then to really operate these agreements in the way in which they were designed to operate -- that is, to provide opportunities for other students in other countries to come and then to send our students to these campuses for a semester or two,” Wilson said.

The other main barrier Wilson identified for MSIs was also resource related -- “the ability to provide support to enhance foreign language programs on HBCU and MSI campuses, to stimulate student interest in the language, culture, art and society.”


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