Report: Study Abroad Scholarship For Lower-Income Students Generates Broad Impact

Posted By Eliana Osborn on July 1, 2016 at 7:37 am
Report: Study Abroad Scholarship For Lower-Income Students Generates Broad Impact

For too long, study abroad opportunities have been out of reach for lower income students. Scholarships for such programs are limited, and participants aren’t able to work while participating. But new research on the U.S. State Department’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship highlights the value of having a study abroad experience, no matter your financial situation.

In 2015, 2,800 Gilman scholarships were awarded. Participants must meet similar requirements to Pell Grants, and both undergraduate and graduate students are eligible. Even as study abroad has expanded, programs have remained overwhelmingly white. The Gilman Evaluation Report covering the first 15 years of the scholarship’s existence points to success in diversifying which students have international experiences.

The results are dramatic and align with what educators and officials would hope for: After time studying abroad, students are changed. About a third change their major course of study when they return and more than 60 percent indicate a willingness to work in more geographic areas than they’d previously considered.

The report’s executive summary says, “From changed perspectives on the world and new interests in working on global issues to focusing academic pursuits on international topics and deepening foreign language skills, the Gilman Scholarship has enabled students of limited financial means to develop the knowledge and competencies required to compete in a global economy.”

Nearly half of Gilman scholars are the first in their family to attend college. Racially, just one-third of Gilman students are white, compared with 76 percent of all study-abroad participants. Scholars are aware that they don’t fit the typical oversees American student, primarily because of economics.

Other study findings include:

  • 79 percent keep up on news coverage of the place they studied after their experience
  • 87 percent report more interest in international topics back in U.S. school
  • 79 percent study a foreign language abroad and the vast majority work to keep it up when they return
  • 83 percent say they were able to do academic activities that they would not have been able to if they’d stayed at home
  • 83 percent found jobs where they interact with diverse populations

Perhaps more important than the individual experiences is the difference the Gilman scholarship has made institutionally. Representatives of more than 40 colleges were interviewed for the study. About a third said their study abroad programs have changed because of Gilman, including an expansion to broader geographic regions. Others say their international experiences are more diverse now and Gilman has encouraged them to work at inclusivity through other means.

International study is becoming more and more valuable in a global society. Enabling more students to have access to study abroad is a key component of equalizing educational opportunities. The Gilman program has proven successful on a small scale and could open doors to more such endeavors.

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

You May Also Like