Number of US students studying abroad reaches record high

by Ray Clancy on November 15, 2013

The number of American students studying abroad has increased by 3% to an all-time high with international students at colleges and universities in the United States also growing by a record 7%.

American students studying abroad increased to more than 283,000 according to the Open Doors report from the Institute of International Education (IIE.) The number of international students in US colleges and universities in the 2012/2013 academic year grew to reach 819,644.

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Study abroad by American students has more than tripled over the past two decades

In 2012/2013, 55,000 more international students enrolled in US higher education compared to the previous year with most of the growth driven by China and Saudi Arabia.

This marks the seventh consecutive year that Open Doors has reported expansion in the total number of international students in US higher education and there are now 40% more international students studying at American colleges and universities than a decade ago with the rate of increase rising steadily for the past three years.

International students make up slightly under 4% of total student enrolment at the graduate and undergraduate level combined. The data also shows that international students’ spending in all 50 states contributed approximately $24 billion to the US economy.

The number of US students who studied abroad for academic credit increased by 3%, more than the 1% increase from the previous year. More US students went to Latin America and China, and there was a rebound in those going to Japan.

Study abroad by American students has more than tripled over the past two decades, from approximately 71,000 students in 1991/1992 to the record number in 2011/2012. However, despite these increases, fewer than 10% of all US college students study abroad at some point during their undergraduate years.

‘International education promotes the relationship building and knowledge exchange between people and communities in the United States and around the world that are necessary to solve global challenges,’ said Evan Ryan, assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs.

‘The connections made during international education experiences last a lifetime. International students enrich classrooms, campuses and communities in ways that endure long after students return to their home countries. We encourage US schools to continue to welcome more international students to their campuses and to do more to make study abroad a reality for all of their students,’ he explained.

According to IIE’s president Allan Goodman, international students coming to study in the US benefit from access to some of the finest professors and research laboratories in the world, and Americans benefit substantially from the presence of international students who bring their own unique perspectives and knowledge to the classroom and the wider community.

Commenting on the fact that 90% of American undergraduates still do not study abroad, Goodman said; ‘We need to increase substantially the number of US students who go abroad so that they too can gain the international experience which is so vital to career success and deepening mutual understanding.’

He pointed out that the strong increase in international student enrolment shows the continued conviction by international students and parents that a US degree is a sound investment in their future careers.

‘US higher education offers an unmatched range of nearly 4,000 colleges and universities of all sizes and types, with an extensive variety of course offerings, fields of study, and price points,’ he added.

The Institute of International Education is an independent not for profit organisation with a network of 19 offices and affiliates worldwide and over 1,200 member institutions. IIE has conducted an annual statistical survey of the international students in the United States since its founding in 1919 and in partnership with the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs since 1972.

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