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University Presidents Call for Lifting Educational Exchange Restrictions: AASCU Members Seek U.S. Policy Change to Cuba-Related Travel

Members of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) have called for lifting all restrictions on educational exchanges with foreign countries, including exchanges with Cuba that are currently limited by the U.S. Department of Treasury.

Members ratified this policy position today at the Association’s Annual Meeting as they endorsed the Association’s 2009 Public Policy Agenda, the document that spells out the policy principles and positions that guide AASCU’s advocacy on current and developing issues at the federal and state levels.

“One of the best ways to overcome the ill will and mistrust built between Cuba and the United States over the past 40 years is to fully develop educational exchange programs; that is impossible with the current travel restrictions. During even the coldest days of the cold war years, we did not have the onerous restrictions on travel to the former Soviet Union as those which currently exist on travel to Cuba,” said Constantine W. Curris, president of AASCU.

“Educational exchanges between Cuba and the United States are an important opportunity to broaden understanding of our peoples and cultures and it is a productive means of addressing a long-term strategy for improving the relationship between our two countries,” said Curris.

While the U.S. government has restricted U.S. travel to Cuba for more than 40 years, there have been numerous changes during this period. In 1999 restrictions were loosened that made a wide range of educational activities possible under certain licenses.

However, in 2004 government action was taken that has had a major affect on public colleges and universities’ ability to promote short term educational exchanges with Cuban academic institutions for both students and faculty in the U.S. The Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control will not grant specific licenses for these educational activities in Cuba for less than 10 weeks. 

AASCU’s first presidential mission to Cuba in 2002 resulted in signing a memorandum of agreement with the Cuban Ministry of Education to promote educational exchanges, research and joint collaboration between AASCU member campuses and Cuban higher education institutions. Currently three AASCU members are participating or plan to participate in programs in Cuba: California State University Fullerton, Delaware State University and Texas A&M University Corpus Christi.

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