Americans Abroad: Long-term International Education Opportunities

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In the 2011/12 academic year, a mere 3.2 percent of American students participated in a long-term study abroad program, which is designated as one academic or calendar year, according to a snapshot of data from the Institute for International Education's (IIE) 2013 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange.

The statistics are even more dim when you factor in that the total percentage of American students studying abroad during the same year comprised only 1.4 percent of the total enrollment of American students (i.e., excluding international students) in US higher education institutions (HEIs). Nonetheless, there is encouraging data that shows that the rare phenomenon of American students studying abroad for the entire duration of their studies, also known as degree mobility, is slowly gaining momentum.

IIE's Center for Academic Mobility Research, which is responsible for the annual Open Doors report, also released a groundbreaking 2013 report titled New Frontiers: U.S. Students Pursuing Degrees Abroad, based on survey data from 14 countries. The report uncovered some mixed findings:

  • Over two-thirds of degree-mobile American students study in English-speaking countries (i.e., UK and Canada). Therefore, language remains an obstacle to increasing the overall degree mobility rates.
  • Despite a dismal number of American degree-mobile students (46,571) among the 14 countries surveyed, a five percent increase in the rate of these degree-mobile students was noted from the 2010/11 to the 2011/12 academic year.

Nevertheless, the US still fails to send a significant number of students abroad for full degree programs. Some obvious contributing factors both prevent and drive the degree-mobility trend among US students, whereas others factors are less clear.

Check back next week for part two of our study on Americans Abroad: Long-term International Education Options and Incentives. We will look at the cost incentives, language “barriers” and accessible resources for finding out more about US students studying and earning degrees abroad. 

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