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 the 2014-2015 academic year grew 2.9 percent from 304,467 students to 313,415 students. This represents just over 1.5 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 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 2014-2015 U.S. Students Abroad 2014-2015
African American or Black 14.5% 5.6%
Asian/Pacific Islander 6.6% 8.1%
Caucasian 58.3% 72.9%
Hispanic/Latino American 16.5% 8.8%
Multiracial 3.3% 4.1%
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 almost 40 percent of students studying in just four countries, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, and France.

  U.S. Students Abroad
Host Region 2009-2010 2010-2011 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015
Africa 5.5% 4.3% 4.5% 4.6% 4.4% 3.4%
Asia 12.0% 11.7% 12.4% 12.4% 11.9% 11.4%
Europe 53.5% 54.6% 53.3% 53.3% 53.3% 54.5%
Latin America 15.0% 14.6% 15.8% 15.7% 16.2% 16.0%
Middle East 1.8% 2.6% 2.5% 2.2% 2.1% 2.2%
North America 0.7% 0.5% 0.5% 0.5% 0.5% 0.5%
Oceania 5.0% 4.8% 4.5% 4.0% 3.9% 4.0%
Multiple Regions 6.5% 6.8% 6.4% 7.3% 7.7% 7.9%

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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