June 5, 2007

Contact: Lynne Weil, 202-225-5021

Senator Paul Simon Foundation Act dramatically expands access to international education for America’s college students

Washington, DC – Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today hailed the passage of the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act (H.R. 1469). The legislation, which Lantos co-sponsored with the Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), would establish a foundation in the name of late U.S. Senator Paul Simon to expand opportunities for U.S. college students overseas.

“I have always believed that studying abroad provides an irreplaceable experience that college students carry with them the rest of their lives,” Lantos said. “International study transforms our young people and makes them citizens of the world. Until now, such an opportunity has always been reserved for a privileged few. This legislation opens the door for every American student to learn and live overseas, regardless of economic background.”

Lantos has long been committed to promoting international education. As an economics professor in California, he led a study abroad program for students throughout the state. In crafting the bi-partisan legislation passed today, Lantos aimed to promote cultural exchange and to help curtail growing anti-American sentiment in other countries.

“Today, our nation faces a deficit of cultural knowledge that is an impediment to our efforts to fight the global war on terrorism, and to keep America competitive in a global economy,” Lantos said. “Our foreign affairs agencies are hard-pressed to find recruits who have first-hand understanding of critical cultures and languages. The Senator Paul Simon Act will rectify this deficit by vastly expanding the talent pool of young Americans with global skills, making it an essential diplomatic tool for promoting our security.”

The legislation passed today creates a new, slim government entity to expand the number of American students studying abroad annually. It mandates a five-fold increase in the number of students who go abroad during their college careers, bringing the total number of students participating in international exchange to one million per year within the next decade.

“This is an incredibly important bill that will democratize study abroad for American students in the way that the GI bill democratized higher education,” Lantos said. “Today, many American college students face financial and institutional impediments to study abroad. The Senator Paul Simon Act and the foundation it creates will tear down these barriers, and make foreign study a normal rather than an exceptional part of a college education.”