Recently, First Lady Michelle Obama visited Peking University to stress the importance for college students to study abroad.

Obama herself never considered studying abroad, and she noted that many young people struggling to pay for school today may also feel that way. Obama said, “That’s not acceptable, because study abroad shouldn’t just be for students from certain backgrounds.”

I wholeheartedly agree. But it isn’t just about the money. Obama may not be aware that the federally funded TRIO Programs actively assist students who are low-income or first-generation or who have disabilities to study abroad. TRIO provides much-needed academic support, such as advising and tutoring for participants so that they enter, remain in and graduate from college.

At North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, the TRIO Student Support Services program has helped send 22 low-income, first-generation students abroad for short-term international experiences in the last seven years. These experiences have had a significant impact on improving participants’ academic achievement and also enriching them personally.

The first lady has signaled that the United States needs college graduates who are globally competent. We need to make sure that all students have access to study abroad.

Shelly Siegel, Minneapolis


The writer is director of TRIO programs at North Hennepin Community College.