Grant Funding Will Help Pomona College Students Get a First U.S. Passport

Seated person is holding U.S. passport.

Obtaining a passport is a first step toward studying abroad, but the steep $195 application fee could put it out of reach for some college students from low-income backgrounds. Now, thanks to a grant from the Institute of International Education’s American Passport Project, 25 Pomona College students who are Pell Grant-eligible can receive funding for their first U.S. adult passport. This support may make it possible for them to enroll in one of the College’s 61 international study programs.

Nicole Desjardins Gowdy, senior director of the College’s International and Domestic Programs Office (IDPO), says that Pomona received word in March that it was one of 51 schools to receive grant funding in this cycle. “The criteria of the grant prioritize first-year students, including transfer students, and students who identify with demographics that have been traditionally underrepresented or marginalized in study abroad,” says Gowdy. “The idea is to help get study abroad on students’ radar early, so that they can begin thinking about it, integrating it into their plans while they are at Pomona, and engaging with the IDPO’s other initiatives and resources to support their participation.”

International engagement now takes a variety of forms, Gowdy notes, such as internships, summer research and short-term faculty-led programs. Not all are coordinated through IDPO. “This grant is also an opportunity to promote international education and global experiences more broadly,” she says.

Gowdy says that the trend nationally is toward shorter study abroad experiences. At Pomona, though, full semester participation has remained steady, with some students opting for an entire academic year abroad. “It's still a really big part of our curriculum,” says Gowdy, and “is embedded into the four-year program here.” This is even true for students in very structured majors. “There's been a proliferation of programs that are providing really interesting hands-on exploration in the sciences, or integration with other universities abroad,” says Gowdy. As a result, Pomona students majoring in STEM areas have some of the College’s highest participation rates in study abroad.

About half of Pomona students choose a study away experience before they graduate, Gowdy says. In 2024-25, new programs will be available, including the IES Abroad Study in Rabat, Morocco program.