In 2000, two years before he left Congress, Benjamin A. Gilman worked with his colleagues to establish the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program. This program has since provided over 19,000 scholarships to U.S. undergraduate students who receive Federal Pell grants.
The Gilman program has been a study abroad success story. African Americans participate in Gilman at three and a half times the national rate for study abroad overall, Hispanics at two and half times, and Asian Americans at double the rate. Reflecting the program’s encouragement of non-traditional study abroad destinations, 71 percent of Gilman Scholars study abroad outside of Western Europe, with China the most popular destination.
The number of students who have been able to take advantage of this unique opportunity has increased from 300 in the first year to over 2,900 in the 2016-2017 academic year. The private sector also recognizes the value of the Gilman Program, which has led to State Department public-private partnerships with organizations like Airbnb and the Shawn Carter Foundation over the past three years.
Benjamin A. Gilman’s contribution to the study abroad field continues to help many students develop the ability to communicate and understand the economic, social and political connections among nations. As he once stated: "Study abroad is a special experience for every student who participates. Living and learning in a vastly different environment of another nation not only exposes our students to alternate views, but also adds an enriching social and cultural experience. It also provides our students with the opportunity to return home with a deeper understanding of their place in the world, encouraging them to be a contributor, rather than a spectator in the international community."