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Study Says Fewer Students Enrolling In Study Abroad Programs

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
September 17, 2009

A new survey indicates that for the first time in more than a decade, the number of college students taking advantage of overseas study has dropped.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the study was led by the Forum on Education Abroad, a membership association of American and overseas colleges and independent education-abroad providers. The survey said that nearly 60 percent of colleges and independent study-abroad providers saw enrollment fall from the previous year, and 60 percent of respondents reported that their budgets had been cut in the past year.

"I think it's clear that the economic crisis has had an impact on education abroad," said Brian J. Whalen, president of the group.

Whalen noted, however, that most institutions reported relatively low enrollment reductions. Eighteen percent of those that reported decreases said enrollment was down from 1 to 4 percent, and 15 percent said enrollment had dropped 5 to 10 percent. Just 9 percent reported decreased enrollment of 26 percent or more.

The survey seemed to suggest a correlation between overseas enrollment and types of institutions. Just half of private colleges reported lower participation levels, while 69 percent of public colleges and 87 percent of U.S.-based third-party providers had lower enrollment levels.

Yet plenty of colleges and universities clearly recognize the value of studying abroad. The South Bend Tribune in Indiana reports that Indiana University President Michael McRobbie this week noted that taking advantage of studying overseas is particularly important in this age of globalization.

McRobbie, who was attending a legislative affairs luncheon at IU South Bend, had just return to the United States after a trip to Asia, which he said convinced him of the significance of overseas study. "In particular," he said, "the importance of sending as many of our students as we can overseas for periods of time studying abroad."

An editorial in Connecticut's The Daily Campus also pointed out the value of such programs, and urged University of Connecticut students to apply. "Students should start thinking about taking advantage of what the [overseas] programs have to offer," said the editorial, "because their college years may be their only chance to travel."

And an article in The Maneater, the student publication of University of Missouri-Columbia, noted that enrollment in overseas study programs tripled over the past decade, with about 1,100 students attending such programs last year.

"The University of Missouri has stated the goal of educating students to be globally competent," said Study Abroad Director Barbara Lindeman. "Study abroad provides unique opportunities for students to develop global competencies and cross-cultural skills necessary to succeed in our increasingly international and interdependent world."

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