Thank you Senator Bonoff and Representative Selcer for making study abroad safer.
February 18, 2016
Congressman Steve Pearce
Co-Chair, Caucus on International Exchange & Study Members
2432 Rayburn House Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Congressman Pearce:
Thank you for your leadership in the Congressional Caucus on International Exchange and Study. We applaud your efforts to raise awareness of the importance of international exchange and study programs both here in the United States and around the world. The experiences and connections our youth make during these international encounters create lasting impressions and are immeasurably valuable in the development of cultural understanding, in addition to furthering our nation’s global economic competitiveness.
We all want our students to have the opportunity to benefit from these international exchanges and study programs. We all also want our students to return home safely and unscathed by unfortunate experiences.
In Minnesota, we were surprised and shocked to find that although there are laws to ensure that students coming to the United States have safe and successful experiences, there is little in our federal law to protect and require reporting of incidents which occur when our United States students go abroad on school-sponsored programs. This is in spite of the undeniable fact that some students die unnecessarily and tragically during their overseas experience, and others are the victims of unnecessary hospitalizations, robberies, and more.
Despite this reality, there is no required reporting system for deaths, hospitalizations, or any of the other undesirable incidents some of our students unfortunately experience while abroad through a post-secondary institution sponsored program. We do not have required, comprehensive, and reliable data by country, program, or undesirable incident to guide our students and their families as they make decisions as to where to go to have a safe and successful study abroad experience.
We urge you to move to enact legislation similar to that which we have in Minnesota. With bipartisan support we passed legislation that addresses both K-12 (a growing experience and study abroad area):
https://www.revisor.mn.gov/laws/?year=2015&type=1&doctype=Chapter&id=3 (language in Article 12, Section 1).
Congressional Caucus on International Exchange and Study Members and post-secondary exchange and study abroad programs: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/laws/?id=69&doctype=Chapter&type=0&year=2015 (language in Article 3. Higher Education Policy, Section 1, Subdivision 2)
Our Minnesota Office of Higher Education has just issued its first report based on information gathered from our MN post-secondary institutions: http://www.ohe.state.mn.us/sPages/SAHS.cfm
Minnesota’s first report dealing with K-12 experience abroad programs’ safety record will be issued in January 2017.
We urge you to consider supporting Congressman Sean Maloney’s bill, very similar to Minnesota’s, so that all United States students will have access to this type of valuable information: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/3551
Again, thank you for your leadership in promoting international exchange and study abroad programs. Given our global economy and interconnected world, these programs are more important than ever. Meaningful, mandated reporting of deaths and other undesirable occurrences when our students study abroad will provide the valuable information needed to ensure that our students return home safely to their families and their futures.
Terri Bonoff, Co-Author and Chair
Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee
Yvonne Selcer, Co-Author
Member House Education Innovation Policy; and Education Finance Committees
Chuck Wiger, Chair
Senate E-12 Budget Division