Minnesota state legislators have voted to require full disclosure on all university study abroad programmes from the next school year.
In a recent measure authored by senator Terri Bonoff, chair of the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee, all post-secondary institutions in the state are being asked to report annually on the safety statistics of the programmes they offer.
‘We want to know how many deaths – if any deaths – occurred. We want to know if there were any hospital stays as a result of participating in the programme,’ Senator Bonoff said. The information will ultimately be available for public consumption on the secretary of state’s website.
One proponent of the measure was Minnesota’s ClearCause Foundation, a non-profit organisation started by the parents of a dead Minnesota student who studied abroad, which is dedicated to transparency in study abroad programmes.
According to the Minnesota Public Radio website, mothers of injured and dead students campaigned together for the changes.
Senator Bonoff described the state legislation a necessary first step, but insisted more changes must be made for regulating study abroad initiatives, which she described as ‘a wonderful opportunity for our young people’.
She added that she had ‘no interest in putting obstacles in students’ way in terms of being able to access those programmes’.
Other states are following suit in terms of disclosure, although not in safety information. New York state is currently working on legislation that would require study abroad programmes to offer clear price breakdowns.
It’s unclear whether similar bills will become federally mandated, though Senator Bonoff believes a nationwide trend will follow.
‘I think that we are missing something by not having federal accountability and transparency in regards to all study abroad programs,’ she said. ‘We often say, start at the state level and then a few more states pursue things and then eventually the feds tackle it.’
Although the bill has been approved, the committee awaits further recommendations for how to improve the measure in the future from the Office of Higher Education.