U.S. wants more students abroad

Derek Lenehan

A bipartisan commission of federal officials has recommended that the United States significantly increase the number of American students studying abroad in the next decade. The commission’s goal is to have one million students studying in foreign nations per year.

The Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program, members of which were appointed by Congress and federal executives, suggested that the government immediately approve $50 million for a fellowship to aid potential students studying abroad. The funding from the government should then increase to $125 million over the next decade, according to the commission.

Kenneth Cushner, executive director of International Affairs, said that Kent State’s goal is to increase students abroad three-fold within the next five years.

Cushner said there are between 300 and 400 Kent State students currently studying abroad.

“It is feasible” despite current budget woes, he said. “This is a new initiative. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

James Dalton, interim dean for the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, expressed interest in the commission’s suggestions, and the possibility of additional funding for students.

“We send about 80 percent of our architecture students abroad currently, and about 50 percent of interior design students,” he said. “The majority of the ones that don’t go can’t afford to.”

Cushner said there are two factors that negatively affect the Kent State study abroad programs. The first is a general lack of knowledge of the programs. The second is several misconceptions about the programs, he said. Some misconceptions are:

• Studying abroad will postpone a student’s ability to graduate within four years. Cushner said that studying abroad can fit nicely in course schedules if planned early enough.

• It’s expensive. Financial aid will still assist students studying abroad, he said. There would be additional money available if the Lincoln Commission’s recommendations are followed.

• Students will have to conform to a rigid program agenda, and could be stuck somewhere for an extended period of time, or could not stay somewhere long enough. Cushner said that the university offers both short term and long term programs.

“There is also the formal student exchange, where a Kent State student pays regular tuition and goes to a school that sends a student here,” he said. “Then it would cost about the expense of a plane ticket.”

Contact academic affairs reporter Derek Lenehan at [email protected].