Latest Open Doors Report Shows Marked Improvement in Study Abroad Participation

The Institute of International Education (IIE) released its 2015 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange Monday, kicking off International Education Week. The latest figures show a 5 percent increase in the number of American students studying abroad, the biggest jump since before the 2008 recession.

Also notable, the number of international students studying in U.S. colleges and universities during the 2014-2015 academic year grew by 10 percent, the highest rate of growth in 35 years.

“We are excited to see that record numbers of students are taking advantage of international education opportunities, and we applaud the efforts of U.S. higher education as we work together to increase the number of American students who study abroad,” Evan Ryan, assistant secretary of state for Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, said in a press release. “It is critical that we continue to make study abroad more accessible. These exchanges strengthen ties between the United States and countries around the world. By increasing accessibility to study abroad, we are investing in our future and providing a forum to solve global challenges.”

In order to double the number of American students who study abroad — as well as expand the diversity of students, academic disciplines, and countries of destination — IIE created its Generation Study Abroad initiative. To date, 600 colleges, universities, government agencies, education associations, and foreign countries have partnered with IIE on the initiative to improve international exchange opportunities for all students.

While the majority of outbound U.S. students who study abroad are white (74.3 percent), there has been growth among underrepresented minority students going abroad in recent years. Since the 2008-2009 academic year, the number of Hispanic and Latino students studying abroad increased by 2.3 percent, to make up 8.3 percent of the total outbound population. This year, African American students make up 5.6 percent, Asians and Pacific Islanders comprise 7.7 percent, and American Indians and Alaska Natives make up 0.5 percent, a number which remained flat.

The variety of destination countries has also expanded over last year. The United Kingdom remains the most popular destination for U.S. students, but Latin American countries are growing in popularity. The number of U.S. students studying in Latin America and the Caribbean rose by 8.4 percent; Mexico saw the largest growth, at 19 percent last year, with similar gains in popularity for Chile, Peru, and Ecuador.

Brazil, India, Kuwait, and Nigeria saw the highest rates of growth as places of origin. International students of all nationalities were most likely to study business and management, but the number of those studying math and computer science increased the most, to 23.5 percent over last year. California, New York, Texas, Massachusetts, and Illinois hosted the most international students, with New York University, the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and Columbia University taking the top spots as host institutions.

“International experience is one of the most important components of a 21st century education,” IIE President Allan E. Goodman said in a statement. “Studying abroad is one of the best ways for students to gain the international experience necessary to succeed in today’s global workforce. And studying in another country prepares students to be real contributors to working across borders to address key issues in the world we share.”

The U.S. Department of State recently created the Study Abroad Office to boost international exchange and encourage a more democratic global society. And this week, the office launched a new website to educate students, parents, and educators about the myriad opportunities for study abroad.

“At the Department of State, we see every day how international education opportunities build and sustain a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world,” said Assistant Secretary Ryan. “They develop the relationships between people and communities that are necessary to solve global challenges. And they equip students with the language skills and global perspectives they need to succeed in their careers.”

Visit to learn more about the initiative or to find out how your school or organization can become a partner in increasing the scope and diversity of study abroad.