Time to amend study abroad law

The Minnesota Legislature is considering amendments to a law about study abroad programs that went into effect last August. As currently written, the law requires post-secondary institutions in the state to report accidents or illnesses that lead to the hospitalization or death of students participating in study abroad programs. The information gathered from colleges and universities is published online for the public’s benefit.

A Minnesota Office of Higher Education analysis found several flaws in the law and recommended the changes currently under consideration.

Now, institutions are not required to report sexual assaults or crimes that affect students abroad, even though these incidents are critical measures of the safety of study abroad programs. The OHE recommends adopting a list of “critical incidents” for institutions to report. These incidents would include assault and different types of crime.

Another problem is the state’s inability to identify specific  program names and hosts. This prevents potential students from finding necessary information about the programs that interest them.

There are concerns that students will not accurately report incidents that occur abroad. But given the current lack of data, any effort to gather information will be beneficial. Additionally, all data would be anonymous, preventing any privacy violations for students.

As study abroad participation grows, the need for health and safety information will only increase. Therefore, we urge the state to amend the current law and help ensure that students have the best available information about study abroad programs and countries.