For the first time, Minnesota is tracking the health and safety of college students who study abroad. And the results show that 2014-2015 was a pretty safe year, all things considered.
The report, from the state's Office of Higher Education, found that some 10,000 students participated in the Minnesota Study Abroad program between August, 2014 and July, 2015. Of those, 28 were hospitalized while overseas, but everyone returned home safely.
"One of the questions a parent or student has when considering a Study Abroad program is, 'how safe is it?' " said Larry Pogemiller, the higher education commissioner, in a news release accompanying the report. "While even one illness or injury is one too many, this new data offers some assurance that schools are taking their responsibility to students seriously."
The report, which was mandated by a 2014 state law, was inspired by the Minnesota-based Clear Cause Foundation, a group dedicated to making study abroad programs safer. It was founded by Allen and Sheryl Hill, whose 16-year-old son, Tyler, died in 2007 while in Japan on the People to People Student Ambassadors program. Tyler, who lived in Mound, suffered altitude sickness while climbing Mount Fuji and died in a Japanese hospital. The foundation, which was founded in 2010, sponsors a "Safe Journey Academy" that encourages students to create "action plans" for contingencies such as illness, injury, assault, civil unrest or natural disasters.
Minnesota is the first state in the country to require a safety report on study abroad programs, according to the higher education office. By law, it must report deaths, accidents and illnesses of students in study abroad programs. This year's report includes reports from 41 college or university campuses in Minnesota.