Nationally, the number of U.S. students studying abroad for credit during the 2020-2021 academic year declined 91 percent from 162,633 students to 14,549 students as the COVID-19 pandemic halted study abroad participation starting in March 2020. The current total represents less than one percent of all U.S. students enrolled at institutions of higher education in the United States and less than 10 percent of U.S. college graduates. A 2014 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.


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 2020-2021 U.S. Students Abroad 2020-2021
African American or Black 13.1% 4.1%
Asian/Pacific Islander 7.7% 10%
Caucasian 54.0% 68.3%
Hispanic/Latino American 20.3% 12.3%
Multiracial 4.2% 4.8%
American Indian/Alaska Native 0.7% 0.4%

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

An overwhelming majority of U.S. study abroad takes place in Europe with 44 percent of students studying in just five countries, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, France, and Ireland. 

U.S. Students Abroad

Host Region 2016-2017 2017-2018 2018-2019 2019-2020 2020-2021
Africa 4.0% 4.2% 3.9% 3.3% 2.4%
Asia 11.6% 11.2% 11.7% 9.1% 12.3%
Europe 54.4% 54.9% 55.7% 57.9% 66.3%
Latin America 15.5% 14.9% 13.8% 13.4% 11.0%
Middle East 2.1% 2.1% 2.3% 3.2% 4.9%
North America 0.5% 0.5% 0.6% 0.5% 0.2%
Oceania 4.4% 4.3% 4.4% 7.1% 0.5%
Multiple Regions 7.5% 7.9% 7.5% 5.4% 2.3%

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.