Trends in U.S. Study Abroad

Study Abroad Participation by State and Demographics DataIcon PDF 16

Nationally, the number of U.S. students studying abroad for credit during the 2015-2016 academic year grew 3.8 percent from 313,415 students to 325,339 students. This represents just over 1.6 percent of all U.S. students enrolled at institutions of higher education in the United States and about 10 percent of U.S. graduates. A recent survey found that almost 40% of companies surveyed missed international business opportunities because of a lack of internationally competent personnel. When 95% of consumers live outside of the United States, we cannot afford to ignore this essential aspect of higher education.

NAFSA has long advocated for policies such as the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act to expand the total number of U.S. students studying abroad, and increase the diversity of study abroad students to more closely match the undergraduate population, and encourage study in nontraditional locations.

The decentralized nature of U.S. higher education allows for considerable variance in study abroad participation from institution to institution and from state to state. NAFSA’s breakdown of study abroad enrollment by state lets institutions and state leaders gauge how they compare with national trends.

Percent of U.S. Study Abroad Students by Race/Ethnicity

Although the diversity of study abroad participation has increased in recent years, minority students are still greatly underrepresented in study abroad.

Race/Ethnicity U.S. Postsecondary Enrollment 2015-2016 U.S. Students Abroad 2015-2016
African American or Black 14.1% 5.9%
Asian/Pacific Islander 6.8% 8.4%
Caucasian 57.6% 71.6%
Hispanic/Latino American 17.3% 9.7%
Multiracial 3.5% 3.9%
American Indian/Alaska Native 0.8% 0.5%

Percent of U.S. Study Abroad Students by Host Region

An overwhelming majority of U.S. study abroad takes place in Europe with 40 percent of students studying in just five countries, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France, and Germany.

  U.S. Students Abroad
Host Region 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015 2015-2016
Africa 4.5% 4.6% 4.4% 3.4% 3.9%
Asia 12.4% 12.4% 11.9% 11.4% 11.1%
Europe 53.3% 53.3% 53.3% 54.5% 54.4%
Latin America 15.8% 15.7% 16.2% 16.0% 16.3%
Middle East 2.5% 2.2% 2.1% 2.2% 1.9%
North America 0.6% 0.5% 0.5% 0.5% 0.5%
Oceania 4.5% 4.0% 3.9% 4.0% 4.2%
Multiple Regions 6.4% 7.3% 7.7% 7.9% 7.6%

The information in the charts above is based on the most current data from the Institute of International Education's Open Doors Report and the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics.

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