More Students May Choose to Study Abroad This Academic Year

Study abroad enrollment for students at U.S. colleges and universities is projected to increase six percent in 2010-2011 over 2009-2010 numbers, according to the 2010 IES Abroad Membership Survey Report, an annual survey of the 185 top tier public and private American colleges and universities that comprise the IES Abroad consortium.

In addition, members from private institutions reported that their average study abroad enrollment during the 2009-2010 academic year remained steady, while public institution members reported a 10 percent decrease in enrollments between 2008-2009 and 2009-2010.

Members from private institutions projected their 2010-2011 enrollments to increase by five percent, while public schools members projected a six percent increase.

Economic Impact
Acknowledging that the current economy may make it more difficult for students to study abroad, 17 percent of the survey respondents reported that they are increasing institutional financial aid for study abroad program participants. Schools are also encouraging students to seek additional non-school-based sources of financial aid (63 percent), and consider lower-cost programs (29 percent) and short-term programs (14 percent).

The current economy caused more schools to improve efficiencies and control costs during the 2009-2010 academic year than they had done during the 2008-2009 academic year. These actions included cutting budgets and travel expenses and instituting hiring freezes. In spite of this, 96 percent of respondents reported that they are not eliminating any study abroad programs and 95 percent reported that they continue to encourage sophomores to study abroad.

“The optimistic outlook for 2010-2011 study abroad enrollments from our member colleges and universities, despite the current economic conditions, and our member schools’ increases in financial aid point to the continuing value of international education for American students in today’s global environment,” said Dr. Mary Dwyer, president and CEO of IES Abroad. “From increasing financial aid by $150,000 to a total of $2.15M, to expanding our short-term, faculty-led and customized programs, IES Abroad has also taken a number of significant steps to ensure that studying abroad remains accessible to as many students as possible.”

Important Choice Factors
The survey revealed that study abroad coordinators at IES Abroad member schools consider a study abroad program provider’s commitment to health and safety services the most important criteria for judging the provider. The next most important consideration is the provider’s reputation for academic excellence in its programs. The ability for study abroad program credits to transfer to the home school and apply to the student’s major area of study is another key factor for school advisors as they review study abroad options.

Term and Location Popularity
Study abroad summer and spring terms remain the most popular among students at U.S. colleges and universities. At public institutions, like Penn State University, summer terms attract most students. At private institutions, semester programs are most in demand.

European cities remain the most popular destinations for students seeking study abroad programs, with London attracting more than twice the number of students than any other city.

Among non-European sites for study abroad programs, the top three choices are Buenos Aires, Sydney, and Beijing.

Examining the Impact
Barbara Rowe, executive director of Education Abroad at Penn State University, stated that despite the weak economy, their program’s numbers have mostly held steady in the past academic year. “I think that one of things when the economy began to take that were a little apprehensive of [was] that our numbers would decline,” she explained. “We actually have 28 more students who studied abroad this past academic year (2009-10) than in 2008-09.”

The economy has probably factored in some decisions about where students are studying, as evidenced by responses in the IES report. “We’ve seen increased numbers in Buenos Aires, for example. We’re still strong in Spain, but Latin America is an alternative to keep down the costs,” stated Kristi Wormhoudt, academic coordinator for Education Abroad at Penn State. “We’ve also seen an uptick in our summer numbers. And I don’t if it is necessarily true that summer is in the long run cheaper, but we were up in our summer program this year compared to the last.”

“I think on a whole students are very conscious of cost, and they look very carefully at the cost of each program option,” added Rowe.

International safety is always a concern, but recent unrest has not really become a factor in students’ choices to study abroad. “If they are choosing not to study abroad because of security issues, then they’re not coming to our office, and we don’t know who they are,” stated Rowe.

Wormhoudt explained, “Students who want to go to a place we don’t approve take a leave of absence,” rather than go through the program. “They take the leave and then transfer the credits back.”

Often, parents are more concerned about students’ safety than sometimes the students themselves. “I think when students are very serious about where they are going and can make the case to their parents in a very thoughtful and deliberate way, parents generally are supportive,” said Rowe.

Programs like IES, which pay attention to risk issues and provide student services, help with student safety while they abroad. “We send students on programs that we’re familiar with, so either it’s with a university that has student services or it’s with a program provider like IES,” explained Rowe. “So we’re confident that our students are studying with partner universities that know how to deal with these kinds of issues.”

Insurance, such as HGH Worldwide used by Penn State, provides not only medical health insurance but also emergency assistance, adding more peace of mind. The insurance will not only cover a student during an accident — they can also organize a security evacuation for the University.

So, despite the economy and international safety issues, 1,600 students participate in Penn State’s program. Rowe and Wormhoudt hope colleges encourage students to take part in studying abroad and that students take the opportunity to participate in such an exciting experience.

For additional information on the survey and detailed charts, please contact Carol Jambor-Smith, 312/264-5137 or [email protected]

For more information about Education Abroad at Penn State University, visit their Website.

IES Abroad, which celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2010, is a global, not-for-profit academic consortium offering study abroad programs to more than 5,400 U.S. college students each year who participate in 92 programs at 32 international locations. IES Abroad offers programs in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, New Zealand, and South America. Information on IES Abroad is available at