U.S. Students Abroad Top 200,000, Increase by 8 Percent

Article ID: 525200

Released: 13-Nov-2006 4:30 PM EST

Source Newsroom: Halstead Communications

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Newswise — Recognizing international study as an essential part of preparing for a successful career in a globally interdependent world, American students continued to study abroad in record numbers, according to Open Doors 2006, reaching 205,983 students -- an increase of 8% over the prior year's report. This latest surge builds on steady increases over the past few decades, and is buoyed in part by growing interest in destinations in Asia and South America, according to Open Doors, the annual report on international education published by the Institute of International Education with funding from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Findings from the 2006 report will be discussed at a press briefing on November 13th at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, in conjunction with the nationwide observance of International Education Week. (See http://www.opendoors.iienetwork.org for additional statistics and analysis from Open Doors 2006).

With 20 years of sustained and marked growth in U.S. international education, the study abroad experience has moved well beyond the typical "junior year abroad," with students seeking educational experiences of various durations, at different points " and sometimes more than once -- in their academic careers. Students are increasingly going to study in non-traditional destinations, and increasingly to non English-speaking countries. U.S. study abroad has been rising steadily in recent years, with an increase of 144% in the last decade, up from only 84,403 in 1994/95.

Allan E. Goodman, President and CEO of the Institute of International Education, notes that U.S. students are increasingly studying in countries such as China and India that will provide useful language and cultural skills for their future careers. "International study should be a part of every student's education," he said. "American colleges are providing more opportunities for students to have an international experience and are beginning to address some of the barriers to participation in study abroad, in order to prepare their students to be global citizens."

A wide range of activities sponsored by the U.S. Department of State help U.S. students to gain access to international experience. These include the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the Gilman Scholarships for undergraduates with financial need, and new National Security Language Initiative programs focused on language learning. According to Dina Habib Powell, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs "the National Security Language Initiative will help provide Americans with the skills necessary to adapt to our changing world. Studying critical languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Hindi, and Farsi expands young people's opportunities, enriches their lives, and demonstrates our respect for other cultures."

Open Doors 2006 lists the 20 most popular destinations for study abroad as: United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France, Australia, Mexico, Germany, China, Ireland, Costa Rica, Japan, Austria, New Zealand, Czech Republic, Greece, Chile, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, and India. Of these, only five are primarily English-speaking, and most are located outside Western Europe. While 45% of all U.S. students abroad study in perennially popular destinations in Western Europe (#1 United Kingdom, #2 Italy, #3 Spain, and #4 France), there were major increases in the number of students going to other host countries, including a 35% increase (to 6,389, up from 4,737 the previous year) in students going to China, now the 8th-leading host destination for American students and the only Asian country in the top 10.

Although China's growth in popularity may be the most remarkable (this year's increase follows a 90% increase the previous year, after declines caused by SARS), the number of students going to other non-traditional destinations throughout the world also increased, with notable rises in the numbers going to several South American countries. Of particular note are large increases in three countries new to the top 20: Argentina, Brazil, and India. Study in Argentina increased 53% to 2,013, to become the 18th most popular destination. Brazil, at #19, increased 28% to 1,994, and India is now the 20th leading destination, up 53% to 1,767. Chile, the 16th leading destination, was up 12% to 2,393. Counties dropping out of the top 20 list this year were Cuba, Russia, and the Netherlands.

Interestingly, while the number of students in most countries in the top 20 increased significantly, there were small decreases in the number of U.S. students going to English-speaking nations. The most notable decline was in the number of students going to Australia, which showed a 5% decrease after several years of rising popularity among American students. Students going to the perennial favorite, the United Kingdom, decreased by less than 1% to 32,075; and Ireland was down 2% to 5,083. Other than the small decreases in UK and Ireland, most of the popular European destinations saw increases, with more students going to Italy (up 13% to 24,858), Spain (up 4% to 20,806), France (up 12% to 15,374), and Germany (up 10% to 6,557).

Open Doors 2006 data continue to show that the largest growth area is short-term study. The majority (56%) of U.S. students elected summer, January term, and other programs of less than one semester. These short-term programs have played an important role in increasing the popularity of study abroad, offering flexible international study opportunities to students who might otherwise be unable to participate in traditional programs. The "semester abroad" model now attracts 38% of students and only 6% of students studied abroad for a full academic year.

Open Doors 2006 reports that 38 U.S. campuses, primarily large research institutions, awarded academic credit for study abroad last year to more than 1,000 of their students. New York University remained the leading sending institution (2,611), followed by Michigan State University (2,385), University of Texas at Austin (2,169), Penn State University Park Campus (2,084), University of Minnesota - Twin Cities (1,836), University of Florida (1,805), University of Pennsylvania (1,744), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1,739), University of Georgia (1,731) and University of Virginia (1,684).

Although large institutions send larger total numbers, many smaller institutions report sending a much higher proportion of their students abroad. Open Doors 2006 also provides data on study abroad participation rates, and lists those campuses that send very high percentages of their students abroad for some period during their undergraduate career. The top ten campuses, each sending more than 40% of their students abroad, are (in alphabetical order): Austin College, Colby College, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, Davidson College, DePauw University, Dickinson College, Elon University, Lee University, Lewis and Clark College, and, St. Olaf College.

Open Doors captures information from U.S. campuses that reported in 2005/06 on the number of their students that received credit for study abroad in the prior year, so study abroad data in Open Doors 2006 is for study conducted in 2004/05, through summer 2005.

IIE launched a new web-based resource this year, http://www.StudyAbroadFunding.org, to help students find scholarships and grants to help support their overseas studies. To help students explore the full range of study abroad programs and destinations, IIE offers an interactive website called IIE Passport (http://www.iiepassport.org) with more than 6,000 study abroad and learning travel opportunities worldwide for participants of all ages, with information on location, field of study, cost, college credit availability, and eligibility for scholarships. The program listings are also published in two annual print directories published by IIE: "IIE Passport: Academic Year Abroad" and "IIEPassport: Short Term Study Abroad" (available from http://www.iiebooks.org). In addition, the IIENetwork offers resources and an online community for international educators (www.iienetwork.org), with a "Best Practices" section featuring Study Abroad and other internationalization programs that have won IIE's Andrew Heiskell Awards for Innovation in International Education.

The Open Doors report is published by the Institute of International Education, the leading not-for-profit educational and cultural exchange organization in the United States. IIE has conducted the annual statistical survey of the international students in the United States since 1949, and with support from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs since the early 1970s. The census is based on a survey of over 2,700 accredited U.S. institutions. Open Doors also reports on international scholars at U.S. universities and international students enrolled in pre-academic Intensive English Programs, as well as U.S. students studying abroad, based on separate surveys. A full press kit and further details on the Open Doors 2006 surveys and their findings can be accessed on www.opendoors.iienetwork.org, and the full 100 page report can be ordered for $49.95 from IIE Books at http://www.iiebooks.org.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State manages a wide range of academic, professional, and cultural exchanges that include approximately 30,000 participants annually, with the goal of increasing mutual understanding and respect between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. For more information, visit http://www.exchanges.state.gov.


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