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Fall Survey Data: U.S. Campuses Report that Study Abroad is Rising

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U.S. Campuses Report that Study Abroad is Rising

Fall 2011 online survey indicates that more students studied abroad in 2010/11; Campuses are adding faculty-led programs and increasing study abroad staffing; U.S. Study in India and China continues to grow

NEW YORK, NY—A new survey by the Institute of International Education (IIE) and the Forum on Education Abroad has found that study abroad by U.S. college students was on the rise in 2010/11 for the second year, after leveling off during the economic uncertainty that began in 2007. IIE’s Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural affairs, reports that 270,604 U.S. students studied abroad for credit during the academic year 2009/10, an increase of 4 percent from the previous year. The new IIE/Forum online survey conducted in October 2011 indicates that this upward trend is continuing.

Open Doors had reported a slight (less than 1 percent) decline in study abroad for credit in 2008/09, before rebounding in 2009/10.  The IIE/Forum Fall 2010 online survey had suggested that the decline had bottomed out, and was already being reversed. This rebounding was confirmed in the Open Doors data for 2009/10 released today, and the Fall 2011 survey indicates that these increases in the numbers of U.S. students studying abroad continued throughout the 2010-11 academic year, including this past summer. To get an early indication of current study abroad enrollments, IIE and The Forum joined together last year to ask campus administrators about study abroad trends, and the two organizations repeated the survey again this Fall. The online survey included questions about increases or declines in the numbers of students studying abroad, changes in student choices, changes in campus study abroad budgets and staffing, and steps taken by campuses to increase study abroad. Educators at 153 campuses responded, including 110 campuses that each sends over 100 students abroad annually.

More than half of the campuses (53 percent) indicated that there had been an increase in the number of their students studying abroad in 2010/11, compared to 30 percent who indicated they had seen a decline and 27 percent saw no change. This response suggests that study abroad enrollments are continuing the pattern of increases that were seen in the survey conducted last year. In that Fall 2010 survey, 55 percent of respondents indicated an increase in study abroad during academic year 2009/10, and 32 percent of respondents indicated an enrollment decline.

In the Fall 2011 survey, the majority of campus respondents indicated that they had taken proactive steps to strengthen study abroad participation in the past year. Sixty-one percent said they had added new short-term faculty led programs, and 36 percent offered new bilateral exchange programs to enable more students to have overseas experiences. Many institutions reported they had developed new partnerships with foreign institutions (36 percent) or domestic institutions (26 percent).

Last year, campuses indicated that they were not seeing as many cuts to their study abroad budgets and staffing as they had in 2008/09, immediately following the economic crisis of 2007. This year, 30 percent of campuses responded that they had added staff members or increased staff time devoted to study abroad this year. Seventeen percent of respondents spent additional funds on marketing and promotion of study abroad programs, while 27 percent reported increasing the number of study abroad scholarships available.

Allan E. Goodman, President and CEO of the Institute of International Education, said, "We applaud the measures that campus leaders have taken to increase study abroad participation, and we are encouraged to hear that campuses are seeing their study abroad numbers rise. However, with a total higher education enrollment of over 20 million, there remains a huge unmet need to expand American students’ international experience, and an even greater challenge to ensure that access to study abroad is available to all, including students of diverse backgrounds, low incomes and underrepresented fields of study.”

Brian Whalen, President and CEO of the Forum on Education Abroad, commented, "The survey results are extremely encouraging and reflect the strong commitment for and belief in the value of study abroad.  U.S. campuses, provider organizations and overseas partner institutions have worked together during these challenging economic times to make education abroad accessible for more students. Our shared future goal should be to continue to increase participation for a greater range of students so that the benefits of study abroad are experienced more widely."

Study abroad to China continues to increase in popularity, and India is gaining popularity as a study abroad choice. The latest Open Doors reported almost 14,000 U.S. students received credit for study in China in 2009/10; China remains the 5th most popular destination for U.S. students abroad, the only one of the top five host countries outside of Western Europe.  In this Fall 2011 IIE/Forum survey,  48 percent of respondents reported increases in study abroad to China in 2010/11 (with 33 percent reporting no change and 25 percent declines), and 38 percent of campuses responding saw an increase in students going to India to study (with 41 percent no change and 20 percent indicating declines). The latest Open Doors data shows a 44 percent increase in study abroad to India, with almost 4,000 students receiving academic credit for study in India in 2009/10.

Survey respondents also indicated that they had seen increases this past academic year in the numbers of their students going to Western Europe (48 percent) and to Sub-Saharan Africa (36 percent) as well as to Turkey (32 percent). Campuses indicated they had seen declines in the numbers of their students going to Mexico, continuing the trend documented in Open Doors 2011. While U.S. study abroad to Japan increased in 2009/10, according to Open Doors, 41 percent of respondents to the fall survey reported declines in 2010/11, likely due to the earthquake and tsunami. Detailed breakdowns are available in the full survey report, available on the Open Doors website and the Forum on Education Abroad website.

The Institute of International Education is working with higher education institutions and key public and private sponsors to increase the number and diversity of American students who go abroad and to encourage study in places of growing strategic importance to the United States. Programs such as the U.S. Department of State’s Gilman International Scholarship Program, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the National Security Education Program’s Boren Scholarships, and the Freeman Awards for Study in Asia, each administered by IIE on behalf of its sponsor, help produce globally competent future professionals and prepare a new generation for global citizenship. Information about these and other study abroad programs and scholarships are available online at and

The Forum on Education Abroad is working to improve education abroad programs to the benefit of the students who participate in them, through disseminating standards of good practice, and promoting best practices to support the standards. The Forum's initiatives include data collection and outcomes assessment research, sharing of curricular best practices, and a formal quality improvement program, all to advocate for high quality education abroad. With institutional members from across the globe and representing the full range of education abroad constituents, the Forum's efforts to improve education abroad have wide-reaching impact. It has collaborated recently with IIE to expand study abroad capacity in Brazil, India and Turkey.

About the Institute of International Education

The Institute of International Education, an independent nonprofit founded in 1919, is among the world’s largest and most experienced international education and training organizations, with 18 offices around the world and a membership of over 1,000 higher education institutions. In partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, IIE publishes the annual Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, the only long-standing, comprehensive information resource on international higher education exchange activity into and out of the U.S. IIE also provides free access to online resources for study abroad funding:, and a directory of more than 9,000 program opportunities, available in print and also online at

About the Forum on Education Abroad

The Forum on Education Abroad is the only global membership association exclusively devoted to education abroad. Its over 550 institutions and organizations together represent approximately 90 percent of the U.S. students that study abroad and are committed to the Forum's Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad. The Forum is the only organization devoted exclusively to representing the field of education abroad and is designated the Standards Development Organization for education abroad by the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission. For more information visit: Forum on Education Abroad


Institute of International Education
Sharon Witherell, 212.984.5380

Forum on Education Abroad
Brian Whalen,, 717.245.1031