Smith, Portman Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Transparency and Safety of American Study Abroad Programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. [05/21/2019]–U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) today introduced bipartisan legislation—the Ravi Thackurdeen Safe Students Study Abroad Act—to increase the amount of information available to students regarding the risks they may face when studying abroad. While studying abroad is an educationally enriching experience for many American students, too little information is currently available to them and their parents. Sens. Smith and Portman are calling for greater transparency, and the Ravi Thackurdeen Safe Students Study Abroad Act will require institutions of higher education that offer study abroad programs to issue biennial reports on safety incidents experienced by students participating in their programs. They must also report on their efforts to protect these students. In addition, under the bill, the institutions of higher education must make all of this information available to any of their students interested in studying abroad. 

You can access text of the bill here.
“I’m all for expanding opportunity for students, and studying abroad is an opportunity for students to travel, study language and culture, and learn a lot about themselves as well as other people in the process,” said Sen. Smith. “I want students and their families to be able to have all the essential information they need—such as risks and efforts in place to protect students while they’re overseas—and our bipartisan bill would make that possible for Minnesotans and all Americans.”

“Studying abroad is an excellent opportunity for American students to learn about other countries and cultures,” said Senator Portman. “However, there can be dangers associated with studying overseas, and students and parents need better information about these risks. This legislation will increase transparency in study abroad programs and ensure that students interested in studying abroad are well-informed about the risks they may face while spending a semester overseas.”
Ravi Thackurdeen was an American student who died while studying abroad in Costa Rica in 2012. He is one of several American students who have perished while taking classes overseas but whose deaths were also underreported.  More than 332,000 American students studied abroad in the 2016-2017 school year, a 2.3 percent increase from the previous year, according to the NAFSA: Association of International Educators.