Crowdfunding has become a solution to tight budgets for all kinds of projects, from art exhibitions to movies based on beloved television shows. Now, it might help send students to study overseas.

Jackson State University, in Mississippi, has started a crowdfunding campaign to support at least 140 students who are planning to study abroad later this spring.

The Jackson State Passport to the World program provides students with the opportunity to study abroad in China, Brazil, France, Spain and the Dominican Republic. Though the program offers a great opportunity for students to broaden their horizons and learn about other cultures, the cost, which can run to as much as $2,000, can be prohibitively expensive for students, many of whom rely on financial aid to support their studies.

There is financial aid available to students to help offset the cost of the study abroad program, according to Pricilla Slade, special assistant to the provost for JSU-Global and Community College Relations.

Paying for study abroad is “just like paying tuition,” said Slade. However, school officials acknowledged, the fact that students receive different amounts of financial aid means that some are more able than others to cover the costs of study abroad. For that reason, the university decided to create a crowdsourcing campaign to help support students with greater financial need.

 “We realize how important this is for students’ educational growth and development and the impact it can have on their future,” Slade said. “That is the reason why we’re working so hard to make this opportunity available to as many students that qualify and can financially make the trip.”

Passport to the World is a four-week international education experience that includes research and experiential learning, with students spending two weeks abroad and two weeks on campus.

JSU and the Council of International Educational Exchange (CIEE) are cooperating to cover the costs of passports for students who need them. If the campaign meets its goals, Jackson State plans to distribute the money raised based on individual student need, and use any extra funds for scholarships.

Jasmine Harvey, 22, who is studying social work, hopes the campaign will help her be able to study in Paris.

“I’m trying to gain a cultural competence to be able to travel anywhere and adjust and also bring the information back and pass the word on as to what goes on in their cultures and how their people function,” said Harvey.

This initiative is one way that JSU is supporting the Institute of International Education (IIE) in its “Generation Study Abroad” initiative, which seeks to double the number of US students studying abroad over the next five years.

A major criticism leveled at current study abroad programs and demographics is that the majority of US students studying abroad are white liberal arts majors – and that most of them choose to study in Europe. Passport to the World is aimed at addressing those issues, with just two of the six study abroad destinations located in Europe. The majority of students that participate in the program are African-American.

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