St. Thomas Regains Top-five Rank in Annual Study-abroad Report

The Institute of International Education’s Open Doors Report 2011 recently released its annual report about U.S. students who study abroad during college. It shows that the University of St. Thomas remains among the leading American institutions for undergraduate students who study abroad.

The Open Doors Report 2011 analyzes data from the 2009-2010 academic year, in which St. Thomas’ participation rate, 61.8 percent, was ranked fifth nationally among doctoral institutions. The rate is based on the number of undergraduate students who participated in study-abroad programs (796) and the number of undergraduate degrees conferred (1,289).

Alec Pfeffer '10, Mike White '10, Betsy Bohlig '12 and Brianna Peters '12 in Tibet, summer 2010.

These rankings mark the eighth year of statistics in which St. Thomas has been ranked as a “doctoral/research” institution, a category that typically includes much larger schools. Ranked first in this category was the University of San Diego, followed by Pepperdine University, University of Denver and Yeshiva University. Just behind St. Thomas were, in order, Wake Forest University, Yale University, Dartmouth College, University of Notre Dame and American University.

These numbers show a two-spot increase from St. Thomas’ previous academic year’s data from 2008-2009, which ranked St. Thomas seventh, with 751 students who studied abroad.

Dave Engberg, director of the International Education Center, said “It’s great to see improvement in the percentage of St. Thomas undergraduates who study abroad. That so many students go abroad is indicative of the widespread support for these experiences among faculty and staff across campus. Even more encouraging is that by going abroad, the students themselves are demonstrating an understanding of the value of global learning. They get that in order to be educated citizens they need to experience the world.”

Study-abroad participation rates also were strong at other Minnesota colleges and universities. Top master’s institutions included Bethel University, 10th (51.3 percent); and Augsburg College, 29th (34.6 percent). Earning top participation rates at baccalaureate degree institutions were St. Olaf College, third (104.1 percent); Carleton College, 14th (77.5 percent); Gustavus Adolphus College, 27th (66.7 percent); and College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University, 35th (62.6 percent).

Minnesota reported a decline in students who studied abroad. In 2009-2010, Minnesota sent 8,904 students outside of its borders, down from 9,050 in 2008-2009 and 9,579 in 2007-2008. Nationally, study-abroad participation was up 3.69 percent, with 270,604 studying internationally in 2009-2010.

Top destinations

St. Thomas students gather at a beach in South Africa, summer 2010.

Open Doors Report 2011 listed the top five most popular destinations for study abroad: United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France and China. St. Thomas students’ choices in destinations appear to mirror those of students nationwide, with Italy (115), England (89), Australia (81), China (54) and Ireland (41) topping the list in 2009-2010. 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 Ecuador (18), Cayman Islands (14) and Mali (8) represented – a trend reflected in the national results.

Nationally, 15 of the top 25 countries that enrolled American students in 2009-10 were outside of Europe – a traditionally strong draw – with the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and France reporting modest increases in American attendance, after all saw declines the previous year. China, the fifth-ranked destination, rose 1.7 percent.

Two countries reported sizeable increases: India, ranked 14, saw a 44.4 percent surge; 17th-ranked Israel reported the largest rise with a 60.7 percent increase in American students studying within its borders.

Notably, 20 countries in the top 25 were represented by countries in which English is not the primary language, and South Korea dropped out of the top 25 this year.

Foreign student enrollment sees modest incline
Since 1949 the Institute of International Education also has conducted an annual statistical survey of international students in the United States, and with the support of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs since the early 1970s.

Open Doors Report 2011 reports more recent (2010-11) results for rankings of international students studying in the United States. With 12,091 international students studying in Minnesota in the 2010-2011 academic year, Minnesota again ranked 18th in the nation for its total number of foreign students. This indicates a 4.7 percent increase over the previous academic year. The international student rate also increased 4.7 percent nationally, with 723,277 foreign students studying in the United States.

Although St. Thomas does not rank on Open Doors’ national lists for international student enrollment, it ranks fourth in Minnesota and was the top private institution, based on number of international students, with 393 students in 2010-2011. The University of Minnesota ranked first (5,124), followed by St. Cloud State University (1,355) and Minnesota State University – Mankato (708).

The total number of international students at St. Thomas is steadily increasing (316 in fall 2009, 353 in fall 2010 and 383 in fall 2011). The Office of International Student Services at St. Thomas reports a significant increase in the undergraduate international student population over the past three academic years. In fall 2009, 122 international students enrolled as undergraduates at St. Thomas; in fall 2010, 134 students enrolled; and in fall 2011, the number jumped to 158 students. The top countries of origin for all international students at St. Thomas in the fall of 2011 are, in order, India and Saudi Arabia (tied for first), China, Uganda and Nepal.

Nationally, China saw another surge this year in student enrollment in the United States − 23 percent, with 157,558 students total. India remained in the number two spot with 103,895 students, which was down slightly from last year. South Korea was again ranked third.

Sixth-ranked Saudi Arabia reported the greatest rise in students studying in the United States at 43.6 percent.

More about the Open Doors report
Learn more about the Open Doors Report 2011 and its data here.

This week is International Education Week
Celebrate International Education Week (Nov. 14-18) by testing your Global IQ on the U.S. Department of State/Department of Education’s International Education Week website.