St. Thomas Breaks Into Top 10 Schools for Study Abroad Participation

The Institute of International Education’s Open Doors Report 2014 recently released its annual report on international enrollment and U.S. students who study abroad during college.

Study abroad breaks the top 10

The Open Doors 2014 report showed that St. Thomas’ undergraduate study abroad participation is on the rise, ranking eighth this year, and remains among the leading American institutions for undergraduate students who study abroad.

Open Doors analyzes study abroad data from the previous academic year (2012-2013). In 2012-2013, St. Thomas’ participation rate, 56.9 percent, was lower than 57.4 percent in 2011-2012, but its rank increased from 11th nationally to eighth among doctoral institutions. The rate is based on the number of undergraduate students who participated in study abroad programs (713 in this year vs. 690 in last year) and the number of undergraduate degrees conferred (1,254 vs. 1,202).

Photo by Sara Backlund.

“Fire Ceremony” | Photo taken by Sara Backlund '14 Vrindavan, India

These rankings mark the 11th 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 Denver, University of San Diego, Wake Forest University, New York University and American University.

Sarah E. Spencer, director of the Office of Study Abroad, International Education Center, said, “We are delighted to move into the top 10 for our ranking. This demonstrates that more St. Thomas students value global experience, preparing them for future careers and participation in the intercultural community.”

St. Thomas proved again that it is a strong competitor in study abroad, outranking prestigious institutions such as Dartmouth, Duke, Yale, Georgetown, Notre Dame and Boston University, which, respectively, trailed St. Thomas. The University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, with total student enrollment of nearly 52,000 and a No. 3 ranking nationwide for total undergraduate study abroad (2,508), is St. Thomas’ main competition for study abroad.

The state of Minnesota also saw a slight decline in study abroad participation, sending 9,022 outside the United States in 2012-2013. In 2011-2012, the United States sent 9,249 students abroad. Nationally, study abroad participation was up 2 percent with 289,408 American students studying internationally in 2012-2013.

Top destinations

Open Doors Report 2014 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, Spain, United Kingdom and, for the first time, India. 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.

Learn more about the Open Doors Report 2014 and its data here.


International student enrollment continues to see modest increase

Open Doors Report 2014 reports recent (2013-14) results for rankings of international students studying in the United States. With 13,765 international students studying in Minnesota in the 2013-2014 academic year, Minnesota again ranked 19th in the nation for its total number of foreign students. This indicates a 4 percent increase over the previous academic year. The international student rate also increased, 8.1 percent nationally, with 886,052 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 486 students in 2013-2014. The University of Minnesota ranked first in the state (6,621) – and notably, third nationwide – followed by St. Cloud State University (1,272), Minnesota State University – Mankato (1,044) and Minnesota State University – Moorhead (506).

The total number of international students at St. Thomas has been increasing steadily (353 in fall 2010; 383 in fall 2011; 448 in fall 2012; 486 in fall 2013; and 544 in fall 2014 − this figure factors an additional 55 students who are participating in the Optional Practical Training program, which allows students to stay in the United States for employment after graduation). International Student Services at St. Thomas reports a significant increase in the graduate international student population over the past four academic years: In fall 2011, 209 students enrolled; in fall 2012, 219 students enrolled; in fall 2013, the figure jumped to 243; and now in fall 2014, the figure again increased to 284. Important to note is that the undergraduate freshman to sophomore retention rate is at 89 percent of the students returning, which is higher than the St. Thomas average.

Graduate student Yiran Chen (China), undergraduate Ngoc Dang (Vietnam), exchange student Yuya Murai (Japan) and undergraduate Bryan Steinsapir Yazigi (Chile)

Undergraduate Bryan Steinsapir Yazigi (Chile), exchange student Yuya Murai (Japan), undergraduate Ngoc Dang (Vietnam) and graduate student Yiran Chen (China)

Lori Friedman, director of International Student Services at St. Thomas, said, “St. Thomas has also seen an increase in Saudi Arabia and India similar to the trends that are occurring nationally.” The top countries of origin for all international students at St. Thomas in the fall 2014 are, in order: Saudi Arabia (120), China (81), India (60), Uganda (27), and Norway and Nepal (13).

Nationally, China saw another surge this year in student enrollment in the United States – 16.5 percent, with 274,439 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 No. 2 spot with 102,673 students, which is up 6.1 percent from last year’s report. South Korea was again ranked third, with 68,047 students, down 3.7 percent.

No. 21-ranked Kuwait showed the highest rise – 42.5 percent − with 7,288 students studying in the United States. This year four undergraduate students from Kuwait are enrolled at St. Thomas.

The top three sending countries in 2013-2014 are, once again, China, India and South Korea. Saudi Arabia continues to show efforts in seeking Western study for their students. The country showed 21 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 2014 international enrollment report.