St. Thomas remains among top five in national study-abroad participation study

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St. Thomas remains among top five in national
study-abroad participation study

The Institute of International Education’s “Open Doors Report 2008” recently released its annual report about U.S. students who study abroad during college. It shows that, once again, the University of St. Thomas remains among the leading American institutions for the percentage of undergraduate students who study abroad.

The Open Doors Report 2008 analyzes data from the 2006-07 academic year, in which St. Thomas’ participation rate, 61.1 percent, was again ranked fifth nationally among doctoral institutions. The rate is based on the number of undergraduate students who participated in study-abroad programs (665) and the number of undergraduate degrees conferred (1,089).

These rankings mark the fifth year that St. Thomas has been ranked as a “doctoral/research” institution, a category that typically includes much larger schools. This year’s top five schools mirrored last year’s results, with Yeshiva University in New York coming in first, followed by the University of Denver, Wake Forest University and Dartmouth University. Just behind St. Thomas were the University of San Diego, the University of Notre Dame, Duke University, American University, and Georgetown University and Pepperdine University tied for 10th place.

These numbers show a slight increase from St. Thomas’ previous academic year’s rankings in 2005-06, in which St. Thomas also ranked fifth, with 659 students who studied abroad, compared with 665 in 2006-07.

Study-abroad participation rates also were strong at other Minnesota colleges and universities. Top-20 master’s institutions included Bethel University, 12th (47.5 percent); Augsburg College, 34th (32.6 percent); and the College of St. Catherine, 37th (31.2 percent).

Earning top participation rates at colleges awarding bachelor’s degrees were: University of Minnesota-Morris, third (117.1 percent); St. Olaf College, 10th (86.3 percent); Concordia College – Moorhead, 18th (74.8 percent); Carleton College, 21st (73 percent); and Macalester College, 25th (68.5 percent).

In 2006-07, Minnesota sent 8,484 students outside of the United States, down 1.5 percent from the 8,614 students who ventured abroad in 2005-2006. Nationally, study-abroad participation was up 8 percent, with 241,791 studying internationally in 2006-07.

Top destinations

Open Doors Report 2008 listed the top 20 most popular destinations for study abroad: United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France, China, Australia, Mexico, Germany, Ireland, Costa Rica, Japan, Argentina, Greece, South Africa, Czech Republic, Chile, Ecuador, Austria New Zealand and India. Non-English-speaking countries experienced the largest increases in participation. Equador had the steepest spike (29.6 percent), followed by Argentina (26.2 percent), China (25.3 percent), which was new this year to the top five destinations, and India (24.2 percent). South Africa also experienced a hefty leap with a 28 percent increase.

Only three countries dropped in popularity: Mexico (down 5.6 percent), Costa Rica (down 2.4 percent) and Australia (down 2.1 percent).

St. Thomas students’ choices in destinations appear in sync with those of students nationwide, with the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain topping the list in 2006-07. They also demonstrated a healthy interest in nontraditional destinations, with off-the beaten-path countries such as Turkey, Jordan, India, Bangladesh, Lithuania and Belarus represented.

The university’s International Education Center works to keep students interested in both popular and lesser-known opportunities. Ann Hubbard, associate director International Education, explains, “We have been very happy to see a growing diversity of destinations in study abroad. For example, a student is preparing for a semester in Morocco, and there are two courses to India in January 2009. Interest in China has increased among students studying for a semester, and the number of students abroad for the full 2008-09 academic year increased slightly as well.”

The London Business Semester, sponsored by the Opus College of Business, enrolls about 50 students each fall and helps keep the United Kingdom at the top of St. Thomas’ list. Students in this program attend classes in the heart of London at the University of London Union. They visit sites such as the Bank of England, the Stock Exchange, Lloyd's of London and the Houses of Parliament. In addition, they may take “Friday Excursions,” academic field trips that have included Stonehenge, Bath and Oxford.

The other large St. Thomas faculty-led semester program is the Catholic Studies Program in Rome, in which students take Italian language and Catholic studies courses at the Dominican Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas and live at St. Thomas’ Bernardi Campus.

New Programs at St. Thomas

A handful of new programs are helping to expand St. Thomas international reach as well as offer students a broader range of offerings for international enrichment.

St. Thomas newest program, the Student Teaching Abroad Program, adds an underrepresented group to the study-abroad roster. Developed jointly by the School of Education and the International Education Center, it provides education majors student-teaching opportunities in more than 70 countries. This fall, three students participated in the program, traveling to Australia, Ecuador and Honduras. 

Through consortia to which St. Thomas belongs, the IEC also has added a semester program in Jordan for Middle East studies and Arabic as well as a program in Siena, Italy, to provide opportunities, in addition to Rome, for students studying in Italy.

Also in the works is the first program that will take place in Antarctica. Tentatively slated for January Term 2010, the course “Penguins, Icebergs and Amazon Jungles” could mark the first time St. Thomas takes students to all seven continents during the same semester. The laboratory science course is a basic study of the environment of the Earth and will explore patterns of change in the Antarctic as well as the impact of human activity on the Earth.

Total foreign-student enrollment holds steady, undergraduate enrollment increases

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 2008 reports more recent results for rankings of international students studying in the United States. With 9,890 international students studying in Minnesota in the 2007-0
8 academic year, Minnesota ranked 18th in the nation, climbing one notch from last year, for its total number of foreign students. This indicates a 9.3 percent increase over the previous academic year, when 9,048 international students chose to study in Minnesota. In comparison, the international student rate increased 7 percent nationally, with 623,805 foreign students studying in the U.S.

Nationally, 3.9 percent of all students studying in the United States come from outside the 50 states.

St. Thomas ranks fourth in Minnesota and was the top private institution, based on number of students, with 353 students sponsored by the university in 2007-08, up slightly from last year (331). The top three Minnesota schools remained unchanged from last year, with the University of Minnesota ranked first (3,756), followed by St. Cloud State University (1,183) and Minnesota State University–Mankato (574).

The total number of graduate and undergraduate international students enrolled at St. Thomas dropped slightly (278 in fall 2006, 311 in fall 2007 and 301 in fall 2008); however, the Office of International Admissions at St. Thomas reports a steady increase in undergraduate international students over the past three academic years.

In fall 2006, 56 students enrolled; in fall 2007, the number jumped to 83 students, a 32 percent increase. In fall 2008, there were more still, with 89 international students enrolled. This is a record high since the university began tracking these numbers in 1995. The top countries of origin for all international students at St. Thomas in fall 2008 were, again, in order, India, China and Uganda.

More about the Open Doors report

To learn more about the Open Doors Report 2008 and its data, go to