November 17, 2012

Growth in Study Abroad Approaches Standstill


Growth in Study Abroad Approaches Standstill
By Beth McMurtrie
November 12, 2012

The number of Americans who study abroad grew an anemic 1.3 percent in 2010-11, according to the latest "Open Doors" report by the Institute of International Education.

While the numbers, which are on a two-year lag, were no doubt influenced by the country's economic woes, the poor showing highlights the challenges colleges face in making study abroad an integral part of the college experience.

Short trips are increasingly popular among students. About 38 percent studied abroad during the summer, and 13 percent studied abroad for eight weeks or less during the academic year. Fewer than 4 percent of students spent the entire academic year abroad.

One exception to this trend is the number of American students pursuing their entire degrees abroad. According to the Institute of International Education's Project Atlas, which collects data on global student mobility, about 46,000 Americans took this path in 2011, up 4 percent from a year earlier. The top destinations are Britain and Canada.

Allan E. Goodman, the institute's president, says colleges would be mistaken to blame study abroad's sluggish growth entirely on economic conditions. Rather, institutions need to make the option more accessible to more types of students, like science majors and athletes, and offer it earlier than in the junior year. "We have the wrong paradigm," he says.

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