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University of Central Missouri Among 51 Institutions Awarded American Passport Project Grants from Institute of International Education

By Janice Phelan, May 6, 2024

Funding removes financial barrier for students interested in traveling abroad by covering passport application costs.


Student in London phone booth.Thanks to an American Passport Project grant, the University of Central Missouri (UCM) will be able to assist students interested in studying abroad by offering funding for passports.


UCM was among 51 institutions in the United States receiving the grants, offered through the Institute of International Education to support Pell-eligible students by opening the pathway to study abroad.


More than 60 percent of UCM students applying for a study abroad program do not have a passport at the time of application, said Matt Chiesi, the university’s coordinator for the Study Abroad Program. 


“This grant will support students who have interest in studying abroad to get their passport while they plan their future travel,” Chiesi added.


UCM’s grant totaled $4,000, and this is the first time the university has received the American Passport Project award. The funding will pay for all passport application costs for 25 students.


“We do anticipate awarding all 25 awards,” he said. “In fact, Dr. Roger Best (UCM’s president) has also promised to match these funds for an additional 25 students at UCM next year. The target is first-year students, whether freshman or transfer students.”


Interested students will apply for the passport funding over the summer and fall of 2024.


Chiesi praised Tiana Key, UCM assistant director, First-Year Experience, and the university’s Office of Sponsored Programs and Research Integrity for their assistance with the grant application.


Research shows that studying abroad can increase students’ overall engagement, provide a sense of belonging, expand their knowledge of cultural experiences and encourage their transition from their first year to second year, Key said. The grant, combined with UCM’s additional funding, will remove a financial barrier for a total of 50 students interested in this experience.


“I believe this free passport opportunity will be life-changing for many of our first-year students,” Key added. “I hope the students see this grant as an opportunity to take the first step toward participating in one of the many studying abroad programs at UCM and connecting with the larger global community.”

The American Passport Project represents the Institute of International Education’s commitment to creating access to international education opportunities and enabling equity by removing a financial barrier, thereby increasing the diversity and inclusion of students studying abroad. Through the project, the organization aims to grant 10,000 U.S. students their passports by the end of this decade.


Shown in photo: Student Alexis Swope in London.




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