Nationally, the number of U.S. students studying abroad for credit during the 2019-2020 academic year declined 53 percent from 347,099 students to 162,633 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.
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 2019-2020||U.S. Students Abroad 2019-2020|
|African American or Black||13.3%||5.5%|
|American Indian/Alaska Native||0.7%||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 44 percent of students studying in just five countries, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, France, and Ireland.
U.S. Students Abroad
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.