Educators discuss study abroad to Cuba

In two sessions Tuesday at the NAFSA: Association of International Educators conference in Vancouver, Canada, educators discussed academic exchanges with Cuba and the impact of the Obama administration’s January decision to relax the Bush-era restrictions on academic travel to Cuba, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Citing data from the Institute of International Education (IIE), Inside Higher Ed notes that the number of American study abroad students in Cuba dropped significantly from 2,148 in 2003/04 to 251 in 2008/09 after the Bush administration’s new restrictions, including a limitation of study abroad programs to programs of 10 weeks length and a requirement that university-led study abroad programs be run by full-time faculty members, were put in place. Inside Higher Ed suggests that the Obama administration’s lifting of the travel restrictions will lead to an increase in the number of study abroad students in Cuba and that more universities might be opening programs there over the next year.

In April, the U.S. Department of the Treasury released new regulations which allow accredited universities to operate programs in Cuba under a general license, according to Inside Higher Ed:

“The general license provides a blanket authorization for students, faculty and staff at accredited universities to participate in a structured, credit-bearing study abroad program or in a formal course of study at a Cuban academic institution, assuming that course of study will count toward completion of an undergraduate or graduate degree.“

People-to-people exchanges maintained by third-party providers require a specific license and there has not yet been much movement concerning this issue, the article notes. According to Jerry Guidera, U.S. director of the Center for Cross-Cultural Study, “the government has been sitting on dozens of applications since January with no response. Since most students study abroad through so-called ‘providers,’ the practice of restricted access to study abroad remains in place.”