To help reach its goal of having all Centre College students study abroad, the Danville-based school will pay for any incoming student to get a passport if they don't already have one starting next year.
The "Centre's Your Passport" program will serve as both a practical and symbolic way to underscore the importance the liberal arts college places on gaining international experience, or "fluency," as school officials call it.
"It kind of focuses their attention ... that to be educated in today's world, you have to do more than just read about other places, you have to live there," said Milton Reigelman, director of Centre's Center for Global Citizenship.
Roughly 85 percent of Centre's more than 1,200 students spend at least a semester — including the mini-term in January between the fall and spring semesters — studying abroad through one of a half-dozen overseas programs or exchanges, Reigelman said.
Centre has established full-term programs in Strasbourg, France; Merida, Mexico; and London; where the school rents space and sends two faculty members who work with adjunct faculty from those countries. In addition, students can participate in exchange programs in Northern Ireland, China and Japan.
The cost to students is a plane ticket and a $250 fee, Reigelman said.
Reigelman said the low cost and the range of opportunities leaves little wiggle room for students to avoid spending time abroad — but it happens.
Starting next fall, the $100 application fee for a passport can't be an excuse, Reigelman said.
Based on informal surveys, the college believes about half of incoming freshmen don't have passports.