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The Council on International Educational Exchange's new passport initiative aims to sponsor 10,000 students nationally by working with partners, such as Penn. 

Credit: Eric Zeng

Penn Abroad is now offering free passports to undergraduate students receiving financial aid who want to travel out of the country.

The program partnered with the Council on International Educational Exchange – a nonprofit that promotes studying abroad – to offer free passports to students who are United States citizens, according to the Penn Abroad website. The passports typically cost about $145, the webpage stated.

The opportunity comes on the heels of last year's Penn Global program that provided $10 subsidized passports to first-generation, low-income students. The free passports were made possible through funding from the CIEE, which Penn Abroad applied for in 2017, said Jamie Nisbet, marketing and events manager for Penn Global.

The new passport initiative falls under CIEE's Passport Caravan program, which aims to sponsor 10,000 students nationally by working with selected passport “caravan partners," such as Penn.

Jamie Nisbet

To secure a spot in the passport program, students must enroll by Oct. 1 and attend a “pre-check” day. They must also attend an event on Oct. 25 where they mail out the completed paperwork with the help of local passport agents.

Even though the program is now expanded beyond just FGLI students, Nisbet said Penn Abroad still encourages FGLI students to apply for a passport.

“We really want to encourage students who have been traditionally underrepresented in study abroad to take the opportunity, so we didn’t overly limit it to a really narrow population of students, or, we didn’t say only FGLI students, because we think that there are students that might have challenge, [who] are financial aid-eligible, who are not FGLI students,” Nisbet said of those eligible for free passports. 

Criteria for eligibility include being 18 years or older, being a current, degree-seeking freshman, sophomore or junior, and being a first-time passport applicant. Students don't have to enroll in a study abroad program in order to get a passport.

This initiative represents one piece of Penn Abroad’s overall attempts to reduce the barriers students face to study abroad, Nisbet said. In fall 2018, the lowest number of students abroad in recent history was recorded, which was partially attributed to on-campus recruitment's shift from the spring to the fall. Penn Abroad hosts other programs such as pop-up advising sessions for students to learn about academic opportunities overseas.

"The passport is the necessary thing and it's really the first step to being able to do that," Nisbet said. "We hope that students are able to take advantage of global opportunities while they're at Penn."