One Year In, IIE Reflects on the Impact of Generation Study Abroad Initiative

Launched in March 2014 with 156 partners, the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) Generation Study Abroad initiative has grown to include more than 600 program partners that have pledged a total of $185 million in scholarships to make study abroad more accessible to all students, according to the latest update from IIE.

The goal of Generation Study Abroad is to double the number of American students who go abroad each year — 600,000 individuals — by 2020, and to diversify that group. Currently, fewer than 10 percent of American college students participate in international study programs, and less than 25 percent of those students are from underrepresented minority groups. In an increasingly global world, many argue that those figures are too low.

“Studying abroad is one of the best ways American college students gain the international experience necessary to succeed in today’s global workforce,” Allan E. Goodman, president and CEO of IIE, said in a press release. “It prepares them to be real contributors to solving key global issues in the world we share.”

At its inaugural summit on Generation Study Abroad over the weekend, IIE released its report Generation Study Abroad: Year One Impact, which examines the progress that has been made since the initiative began. Many partners have pledged to address the financial, academic, and cultural barriers that prevent low-income, minority, and non-traditional students from participating in study abroad programs.

Eighty-four percent of U.S. higher education partners have pledged to create scholarship opportunities for underrepresented students, and 54 percent are implementing fee waivers or travel grants. The Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), one IIE’s organizational partners, has committed to funding 10,000 passports over the next five years.

In addition, 91 percent of U.S. institutions are either creating or expanding upon international for-credit academic opportunities, 71 percent have committed to increased financing for faculty members to develop and lead study abroad trips, and 77 percent of international partners are creating or expanding short-term travel programs; short-term opportunities are often more attractive to low-income and non-traditional students.

Partner institutions are also leveraging alumni experiences and working to expose students to study abroad at a younger age. For example, at the University of California, Irvine, diverse study abroad alumni serve as Generation Study Abroad ambassadors and give presentations to diverse communities and schools. Further, nearly 500 K-12 teachers have pledged to create awareness of international exchange opportunities in their classrooms.

IIE projects that if the roughly 3,650 accredited U.S. colleges and universities that have not yet pledged support for the initiative were to increase their study abroad participation by 41 students, the goal of 600,000 students studying abroad by 2020 would be reached.