St. Thomas Study Abroad and International Enrollment Are on the Rise

The Institute of International Education’s Open Doors Report 2013 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 2013 reports recent (2012-13) results for rankings of international students studying in the United States. With 13,232 international students studying in Minnesota in the 2012-2013 academic year, Minnesota again ranked 19th in the nation for its total number of foreign students. This indicates a 3.9 percent increase over the previous academic year. The international student rate also increased, almost 7 percent nationally, with 819,644 foreign students studying in the United States.

St. Thomas again 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 448 students in 2012-2013. The University of Minnesota ranked first in the state (6,178) – and notably, third nationwide, followed by St. Cloud State University (1,215), Minnesota State University – Mankato (885) and Minnesota State University – Moorhead (528).

The total number of international students at St. Thomas has been steadily increasing (353 in fall 2010; 383 in fall 2011; 448 in fall 2012; and 486 in fall 2013 − this figure factors an additional 50 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 2013). International Student Services at St. Thomas reports a significant increase in the undergraduate international student population over the past three academic years: In fall 2011, 158 students enrolled, in fall 2012 the figure jumped to 182 and in fall 2013 the figure is now 193. Important to note is that the freshman to sophomore retention rate is at its highest with 94 percent of the students returning from the largest cohort to date.

Students strike a pose at the ruins of a library in Ephesus, Turkey on the UMAIE: Islam in Turkey course during J-Term 2013. Photo courtesy of Megan Coffman.

St. Thomas students strike a pose at the ruins of a library in Ephesus, Turkey, on the UMAIE: Islam in Turkey course during J-Term 2013. Photo courtesy of Megan Coffman.

Lori Friedman, director of International Student Services at St. Thomas, noted that "St. Thomas has also seen an increase in Saudi Arabia, China and Iran similar to the trends that are occurring nationally." The top countries of origin for all international students at St. Thomas in the fall 2013 are, in order, Saudi Arabia (121), China (67), India (49), Uganda (35) and Canada (12).

Nationally, China saw another surge this year in student enrollment in the United States – 21.4 percent, with 235,597 students total. (It also remains the top country of origin in Minnesota, with 29.2 percent of foreign students calling China their homeland.) India remained in the number two spot with 96,754 students, which is down 3.5 percent from last year’s report. South Korea was again ranked third, with 70,627 students, down 2.3 percent.

No. 24-ranked Kuwait showed the highest rise – 37.4 percent − with 5,115 students studying in the United States. This year three undergraduate students from Kuwait are enrolled at St. Thomas.

The top three sending countries in 2012-2013 are, once again, China, India and South Korea. Saudi Arabia continues to show efforts in seeking Western study for their students. The country showed 30.5 percent growth and maintained the fourth highest population of international students in the United States.

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 2013 international enrollment report or read this Newsroom story published last month.

Study Abroad at St. Thomas on the rise; remains among top-ranked schools for participation

The report showed that St. Thomas' undergraduate study-abroad participation is on the rise after a slight drop last year and remains among the leading American institutions for undergraduate students who study abroad.

The Open Doors Report 2013 analyzes study-abroad data from the previous academic year. In 2011-2012, St. Thomas’ participation rate, 57.4 percent, was ranked 11th nationally among doctoral institutions. The rate is based on the number of undergraduate students who participated in study-abroad programs (690) and the number of undergraduate degrees conferred (1,202).

These rankings mark the 10th 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, Boston College, American University, University of San Diego, University of Denver and University of Notre Dame.

These numbers show a three-spot rise from St. Thomas’ previous academic year’s data (2010-2011) − which ranked St.Thomas 14th − with 634 students who studied abroad, a 49.5 percent undergraduate participation rate.

Sarah Spencer, director of the Office of Study Abroad, emphasized, "The 2010/2011 numbers represented a one-year drop in our ranking due to cancelled courses (due to low enrollment) and the economic impact of the Great Recession. While St. Thomas may move up and down in our Open Doors ranking, the most important thing is that our enrollments are consistent and compete with many other nationally ranked universities."

Indeed, St. Thomas proved again that it is a strong competitor in study abroad, outranking prestigious institutions such as Duke, Georgetown, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Boston University, Princeton and The University of Chicago. In addition, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, with total student enrollment of nearly 52,000 and a number-three ranking nationwide for total undergraduate study-abroad (2,508), is St. Thomas' main competition for study abroad.

Other Minnesota colleges and universities also were reported on. Top master’s institutions included Hamline University, which rose 11 spots to third place (93.3 percent compared to 46.4 percent in last year’s report); Bethel College, which did not make last year’s top 40 for master’s institutions was ranked 19th with 47 percent undergraduate participation; and Augsburg was ranked 26th with 39 percent undergraduate participation. Earning top participation rates at baccalaureate degree institutions were, again, St. Olaf College, which fell five spots to 10th place (91.6 undergraduate participation compared to 95.6 percent in Open Doors 2012) and Carleton College, which rose seven spots to 11th place (87.4 compared to 75 percent). Gustavus Adolphus College (69.3 percent) and the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University (66.7), both of which fell from the top 40 in 2011-2012, reappeared on the latest list, coming in at 28th and 34th place, respectively.

The state of Minnesota also saw an uptick in study-abroad participation in 2011-2012, sending 9,249 students outside the United States. The figure marked a halt in its previous decline in students who studied abroad. In 2010-2011 Minnesota sent 8,885 students outside its borders, which was down from 8,904 in 2009-2010; 9,050 in 2008-2009; and 9,579 in 2007-2008. Nationally, study-abroad participation was up 3 percent with 283,000 American students studying internationally in 2011-2012. The marks broke last year's all-time record high of 273,996.

Top destinations

Open Doors Report 2013 listed the top five most popular destinations for study abroad: United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France and China, which was unchanged from the previous year's report. St. Thomas students’ choices were similar to students nationwide, with Italy (158), United Kingdom (127), Spain (58), Germany (36) and Australia (30) topping the list for top study-abroad destinations in 2011-2012. 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, 14 of the top 25 countries that enrolled American students in 2011-2012 were outside of Europe – a traditionally strong draw. The top five countries remained unchanged in rank from the previous year's report. Two of the top three countries, United Kingdom (1) and Spain (3) saw modest increases; No. 2-ranked Italy dropped 2.4 percent. Fourth-ranked France and fifth-ranked China also reported small increases.

No. 10-ranked Japan saw the largest increase at 27.8 percent, an enormous comeback after its 33-percent drop the previous year due to the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Greece saw the steepest dip at 21.2 percent.

Again this year, 20 countries in the top 25 are 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 2013 and its data here.