The Institute of International Education is currently driving an initiative to double the number of US students that have some form of study abroad experience.
“Now maybe they could give every American the opportunity to have a 21st century driving licence”
But the first hurdle efforts to increase outbound mobility, such as Generation Study Abroad, must address is ensuring students have the documentation enabling them to travel internationally, according to its leader, Allan Goodman.
It’s not known exactly how many college-aged students own passports, but some estimates suggest as few as 4% of 18-21 year olds own one.
“I would be surprised if as many as 5-10% of college students have passports,” Goodman told The PIE News.
Providing free passports would be an appropriate way to mark the 150th anniversary next year of the Land Grant College Act, which funded the establishment of a number of colleges and widened access to higher education, Goodman said.
“I know there are many obstacles to the fees, regulated by Congress, but Congress also gave every American an opportunity to have an education,” he argued.
“Now maybe they could give every American the opportunity to have a 21st century driving licence.”
Education institutions also have a role to play in helping students make the first step to travelling overseas, Goodman said.
“It is not a natural thing for most Americans to get a passport, and that’s why I think that encouraging college presidents and faculty champions to say let’s make it easy: here is the booth to take the picture, here is the form to fill out, here is the post office person who comes and swears you in,” he proposed.
“That would be very powerful.”
Striking a note of optimism amid the concern voiced by a number of educators following the shock announcement of Donald Trump’s election victory, Goodman said he is confident that as well as fostering outbound mobility, the US will remain an attractive destination for international students.
“Students choose US higher education as an investment in their future because of its high quality and diversity of opportunity, and we believe they will continue to do so,” he stressed.