International Enrollment at St. Thomas Ranks Fifth Statewide; Study-Abroad Participation Down 20 Percent in Annual Open Doors Report

The Institute of International Education’s Open Doors Report 2012 recently released its annual report on international enrollment and U.S. students who study abroad during college.

International student enrollment continues to see modest increase

Open Doors Report 2012 reports recent (2011-12) results for rankings of international students studying in the United States. With 12,735 international students studying in Minnesota in the 2011-2012 academic year, Minnesota ranked 19th in the nation for its total number of foreign students. This indicates a 5.3 percent increase over the previous academic year, in which it was ranked one notch higher at 18th place. The international student rate also increased, almost 6 percent nationally, with 764,495 foreign students studying in the United States.

St. Thomas ranked fifth in Minnesota

Although St. Thomas does not rank on Open Doors’ national lists for international student enrollment, it ranks fifth in Minnesota and was the top private institution, based on the number of international students, with 434 students in 2011-2012. The University of Minnesota ranked first in the state (5,661), followed by St. Cloud State University (1,250), Minnesota State University – Mankato (770) and Minnesota State University – Moorhead (471).

The total number of international students at St. Thomas has been steadily increasing (353 in fall 2010, 383 in fall 2011 and 448 − this figure factors an additional 47 students who are participating in the Optional Practical Training program, which allows students to stay in the United States for up to one year after graduation − in fall 2012). International Student Services at St. Thomas reports a significant increase in the undergraduate international student population over the past three academic years. In fall 2010, 134 students enrolled at St. Thomas. In fall 2011, the number jumped to 158 students. The number for fall 2012 was higher still: 182. The top countries of origin for all international students at St. Thomas in the fall 2012 are, in order, Saudi Arabia (99), India (56), China (49), Uganda (31) and Nepal (16).

Nationally, China saw another surge this year in student enrollment in the United States – 23.1 percent, with 194,029 students total. India remained in the number two spot with 100,270 students, which is down 3.5 percent from last year’s report. South Korea was again ranked third, with 72,295 students, down 1.4 percent.

The top three sending countries in 2011-2012 – China, India and South Korea – represent nearly half of the international student population in the United States. One noted change is that Saudi Arabia grew 50.4 percent from the previous year and, at 34,139 students nationwide, is the fourth highest population of international students in the United States – up from sixth place in 2010-2011.

International students spend more than $315 million in the state of Minnesota for educational purposes.

Since 1949 the Institute of International Education has conducted this annual statistical survey of international students in the United States, with the support of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs since the early 1970s.

For more information about the St. Thomas international student population, view the fall 2012 international enrollment report or read this Newsroom story published last month.

Study Abroad at St. Thomas falls 20 percent but remains among top-ranked schools for participation

The report showed that despite a 20-percent drop in its undergraduate study-abroad participation, St. Thomas remains among the leading American institutions for undergraduate students who study abroad.

The Open Doors Report 2012 analyzes study-abroad data from the previous academic year. In 2010-2011, St. Thomas’ participation rate, 49.5 percent, was ranked 14th nationally among doctoral institutions. The rate is based on the number of undergraduate students who participated in study-abroad programs (634) and the number of undergraduate degrees conferred (1,282).

Students studying abroad in Japan with Dr. Carol Bruess, Communication and Journalism Department, College of Arts and Sciences (far right in blue kimono). Photo by Maia Martucci.


These rankings mark the ninth year of statistics in which St. Thomas has been ranked as a “doctoral/research” institution, a category that typically includes much larger schools. The top five schools in the category were, in order, University of San Diego, Pepperdine University, Wake Forest University, Yeshiva University and American University.

These numbers show a nine-spot drop from St. Thomas’ previous academic year’s data (2009-2010), which ranked St.Thomas fifth, with 796 students who studied abroad, a 61.8 percent undergraduate participation rate.

Dr. Bruce Gleason, director of the International Education Center, noted, "While a drop of 20 percent in anything is considerable, the real situation is that our study abroad numbers have dropped from 'unbelievably amazing,' to 'a little less than unbelievably amazing.'" He added, "In the Open Doors report, St. Thomas is pitted against the big boys and girls simply because we award doctorates; consequently, our impressive immediate company consists of schools like Georgetown, Stanford and Boston College. Despite this, St. Thomas is still ahead of equally impressive Vanderbilt, Princeton, Brandeis, University of Chicago, Harvard and other high profile schools.

Other Minnesota colleges and universities also experienced dips in undergraduate study-abroad participation. Top master’s institutions last year included Bethel University, which slid four spots to 14th place (46.4 percent compared to 51.3 percent in last year’s report); and Augsburg College, which was ranked 29th with 34.6 percent undergraduate participation, did not make this year’s top 40 for master’s institutions. Earning top participation rates at baccalaureate degree institutions were St. Olaf College, which fell two spots to fifth place (95.6 compared to 104.1 percent) and Carleton College, which fell four spots to 18th place (75 compared to 77.5 percent). Gustavus Adolphus College and the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University, both of which had participation rates of more than 60 percent in 2009-2010, fell from the top 40 in 2010-2011.

Minnesota continued its decline in students who studied abroad. In 2010-2011 Minnesota sent 8,885 students outside its borders, which is down from 8,904 in 2009-2010, 9,050 in 2008-2009, and 9,579 in 2007-2008. Nationally, study-abroad participation was up 1 percent, with 273,996 American students – an all-time high −  studying internationally in 2010-2011.

Sarah Spencer, director of Study Abroad – International Education at St.Thomas, said, "We are proud that St. Thomas is consistently ranked nationally. This year's Open Doors report indicates that we are not isolated from external factors, especially the global economy. The good news is that we are bouncing back quickly, as last year's participation increased by seven percent. And while numbers are important, the Study Abroad staff also prioritizes intercultural engagement, language learning and increasing access to study abroad for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students. We also are improving service to graduate students, who are not counted in the Open Doors survey."

Gleason also noted, "While study abroad numbers are based on student decisions, opportunities wouldn’t exist without the diligent work of our study-abroad staff. On average across the country, one staff member in a study-abroad office services 80 to 90 students per year. The University of Minnesota is 60 to one. The average for institutions our size is 100 to one. The ratio for St. Thomas, however, is 131 students per study-abroad staff member. While our ranking in miracle working has lessened somewhat, we’re still doing miracles."

Top destinations

Open Doors Report 2012 listed the top five most popular destinations for study abroad: United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France and China. St. Thomas students’ choices were similar to students nationwide, with Italy (174), England (86), Spain (67), China (55) and South Africa (48) topping the list for top study-abroad destinations in 2010-2011. The top two slots owe much to two long-standing programs at St.Thomas: the London Business Semester and the Catholic Studies in Rome program.

However, St. Thomas students also demonstrated a healthy interest in nontraditional destinations, with off-the-beaten path countries such as Ghana (16), Tanzania (8), Ecuador (4) and Bangladesh (3) represented – a trend reflected in the national results.

Nationally, 15 of the top 25 countries that enrolled American students in 2010-2011 were outside of Europe – a traditionally strong draw. The United Kingdom, Italy and Spain, the top three countries, reported modest increases in American attendance, while fourth-ranked France saw a negligible (.8 percent) decrease. China, the fifth-ranked destination, rose 5.3 percent.

Two countries reported sizable decreases in the national report: Japan, ranked 14, saw a 33 percent drop due to programs disrupted by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami; and 13th-ranked Mexico reported the largest fall with a 41.8 percent decrease in American students studying within its borders.

Again this year, 20 countries in the top 25 were represented by countries in which English is not the primary (or most widely spoken) language.

More about the Open Doors report

Learn more about the Open Doors Report 2012 and its data here.