Press Release

U.S. Study Abroad Up 8%, Continuing Decade-Long Growth

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Open Doors 2008: U.S. Students Studying Abroad

Deborah Gardner

Data Tables for Open Doors 2008 Study Abroad

WASHINGTON D.C., November 17, 2008 - Recognizing the importance of an international education in today’s global society, U.S. students are studying abroad in record numbers, according to survey data released today by the Institute of International Education. The number of Americans studying abroad increased by 8% to a total of 241,791 in the 2006/07 academic year, according to the Open Doors report, published annually by the Institute of International Education with funding from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. This latest increase marks a decade of unprecedented growth in the number of American students receiving academic credit for their overseas academic experience, with an increase of close to 150%, from under 100,000 in 1996/97 to nearly a quarter of a million in 2006/07.

Open Doors 2008 finds that American students are more frequently choosing non-traditional study abroad destinations. The number of U.S. students studying in China, Argentina, South Africa, Ecuador and India each increased by more than 20 percent over the previous year. This increase is fueled in part by an increase in new program opportunities, partnerships between higher education institutions in the United States and abroad, and a range of fields and program durations to accommodate the needs of an increasingly diverse study abroad population.

“I am immensely gratified to report that we are sending record numbers of American students abroad this year,” commented Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Goli Ameri. “U.S. students recognize that our world is increasingly interdependent, and we at the U.S. Department of State are committed to providing many of them substantive international experiences that increase mutual understanding and provide them with direct knowledge and career relevant skills. Our Fulbright and Gilman program numbers are at all time highs, and hundreds of American students receive National Security Language Initiative scholarships. This year’s Open Doors data also reflects the strong and expanding interest of American students for academic exchange in non-traditional locations. The State Department, in addition to expanding opportunities in more non-traditional locations, has enacted proactive policies to enhance the diversity of U.S. students abroad. We have ensured our outreach campaigns target the full array of talented potential participants from community colleges and minority serving institutions to public and private universities and colleges.”

Allan E. Goodman, President and CEO of the Institute of International Education, noted that the experiences afforded through study abroad provide American students with the skills needed to live in today’s world. “International experience needs to be a component of every student’s education, equipping them for 21st century careers and for global citizenship,” said Dr. Goodman. “The Institute of International Education is working with campuses and sponsors to ensure that this experience is increasingly available to all students, including those who previously would not have had the means or the opportunity to go abroad. We appreciate, too, the many faculty members and campus administrators playing key roles in emphasizing study abroad as an institution-wide priority.”

The increase in study abroad numbers reported in Open Doors 2008 is paralleled by an increase in the range of study abroad destinations: students electing to study in Asia increased by 20%, those going to Africa increased by 19%, and those going to Latin America and the Middle East each increased by 7%. About 36% of students studying abroad do so through semester-long programs, while 55% of U.S. students choose short-term programs (including summer, January term and any program of 2 to 8 weeks during the academic year). Short-term programs serve the largest number of Americans studying abroad, including community college students and others whose financial or academic needs preclude a longer stay. Mid-length programs (one semester, one quarter or two quarters), which allow for deeper immersion into host cultures and increased opportunity for language acquisition, attract over 40% of all study abroad students. Less than 5% of study abroad students spend a full academic or calendar year abroad.

Europe continued to host the largest share of U.S. students (57%), while Latin America hosted 15% of all Americans studying abroad, Asia hosted 10%, Oceania (Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific Islands) hosted 6%, and Africa hosted 4%. While the number of American students studying in the Middle East increased 7% this year, the region is only host to 1% of the total amount who study abroad. About 6% of students study abroad in more than one destination during the same study abroad experience. While numbers headed to Europe rose from 130,274 to 138,871, this represents a smaller proportion of students than in prior years, with the European share of U.S. study abroad students declining over the past decade by 7%.

Seventeen of the 20 leading destinations of U.S. study abroad students reported in Open Doors 2008 witnessed increases in the number of American students studying in their countries. Campuses reported significant percentage increases of students studying in Ecuador, South Africa, Argentina, China and India. The U.K. was once again the most popular destination, with a total of 32,705 students (an increase of 2%). Italy maintained second place with 27,831 students (up 7% from the previous year), followed by #3 Spain (24,005, up 10%), #4 France (17,233, up 10.5%), and #5 China (11,064, up 25%). Other destinations in the top 20 were: #6 Australia (10,747, down 2%), #7 Mexico (9,461, down 6%), #8 Germany (7,355, up 7%), #9 Ireland (5,785, up 5%), #10 Costa Rica (5,383, down 2%), #11 Japan (5,012, up 14%), #12 Argentina (3,617, up 26%), #13 Greece (3,417, up 6%), #14 South Africa (3,216, up 28%), #15 Czech Republic (3,145, up 10.5%), #16 Chile (2,824, up 10%), #17 Ecuador (2,813, up 30%), #18 Austria (2,810, up 1%), #19 New Zealand (2,718, up 7%) and #20 India (2,627, up 24%).

Open Doors 2008 also reports substantial percentage increases (on smaller base numbers) in students studying in the Netherlands (2,139, up 20%), Ghana (1,645, up 36.5%), Thailand (1,584, up 21%), Guatemala (1,095, up 54%), Turkey (924, up 33%), and Taiwan (467, up 27%).

New York University remained the leading sending institution, reporting that it gave academic credit for study abroad to 3,034 of its students, followed by Michigan State University (2,801), University of Texas – Austin (2,172), University of Minnesota – Twin Cities (2,079), University of Georgia (2,060), University of Michigan – Ann Arbor (2,055), University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign (2,052), University of Florida (2,051), University of Washington (1,970) and University of Wisconsin – Madison (1,846). Open Doors 2008 reports that 40 U.S. campuses, primarily large research institutions, awarded academic credit for study abroad last year to more than 1,000 of their students.

While large institutions dominate in terms of absolute numbers of their students going abroad, many smaller institutions send a higher proportion of their students abroad. Open Doors 2008 data on study abroad participation rates show 18 institutions that reported sending more than 80% of their students abroad at some point during their undergraduate careers. These institutions are (in alphabetical order): Arcadia University, Austin College, Bates College, Centre College, Colorado College, Earlham College, Elon University, Goshen College, Goucher College, Hartwick College, Kalamazoo College, Lee University, Rhodes College, Saint Olaf College, University of Dallas, University of Minnesota – Morris, University of Saint Thomas, and Wofford College.

According to Open Doors 2008, the top three major fields of study of Americans studying abroad are the social sciences (21% of those studying abroad), business and management (19%), and humanities (13%).

The study abroad data in Open Doors 2008 reflect study conducted abroad in academic year 2006/07 (including summer 2007). Campus administrators responding to the Open Doors 2008 survey provide data on the number of study abroad students to whom they have awarded credit after completion of study abroad, so the data provided in academic year 2007/08 relates to study abroad in 2006/07, and is the most recent available.

IIE provides a web-based resource,, to help students find scholarships and grants to help support their overseas studies. An interactive website, IIE Passport (, helps students find the study abroad program that best fits their academic needs. IIE Passport contains more than 8,000 study abroad and learning travel opportunities worldwide for participants of all ages, searchable by country, field of study, language, academic level, world area, city, organization, duration, and type of program. The program listings are also published in two annual print directories: IIE Passport: Academic Year Abroad and IIEPassport: Short Term Study Abroad, available from In addition, the IIENetwork offers resources and an online community for international educators (, 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.

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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 an 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 approximately 3,000 accredited U.S. institutions. Open Doors also reports on surveys on international scholars at U.S. universities; international students enrolled in pre-academic Intensive English Programs; and on U.S. students studying abroad (since 1985). A full press kit and further details on the Open Doors 2008 surveys and their findings can be accessed on, and the full 104 page report can be ordered for $59.95 from IIE Books at

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 40,000 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

Data Tables for Open Doors 2008 Study Abroad


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