task force called for ambitious increases in U.S. study abroad participation rates: By 2010, 20 percent of all American students receiving college degrees will have studied abroad for credit, and by 2040, 50 percent. These goals cannot be achieved without a coordinated national effort that involves government, the private sector and institutions of higher education.
That effort has been joined at the University at Buffalo, as steps are taken to dramatically increase participation rates in study abroad, from the current seven percent among undergraduates to the task force’s 20 percent target. Our Office of Study Abroad Programs is working with the academic units across campus to achieve this goal. Several new initiatives will help us boost participation rates. One is the new SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Internationalization created by Chancellor Robert L. King to encourage the development throughout the state university system of innovative summer study abroad programs in underserved academic areas and to less commonly visited countries. In November 2003, UB submitted a total of nine proposals and received three of the 12 awards made system-wide.
Thanks to faculty initiative, study abroad participation in some previously underrepresented areas at the university has already grown rapidly. For example, the number of engineering students at UB who study abroad has risen dramatically in the past five years, due in great measure to faculty leadership in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Many students are under the impression that study abroad is not affordable; in fact, such programs often cost no more than the equivalent program of study at UB, particularly since financial aid can usually be applied to programs offered by UB or another SUNY campus. To encourage more students to participate, we are developing a variety of scholarship programs for study abroad. Thanks to a generous gift from Jeremy Jacobs ’60, chair of the UB Council, students in our Honors Program are eligible to receive scholarships of up to $2,500 toward a study abroad program. Other donors, through their farsighted gifts, have funded scholarships and endowments for study abroad.
These initiatives will enable more UB students to participate in education abroad. The kind of global competence our students want and need cannot be acquired except through extended overseas experiences, and the greater their opportunities to develop a nuanced firsthand understanding of the world, the better served our foreign policy and national security will be.