The Institute of International Education’s “Open Doors Report 2010” 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 2010 analyzes data from the 2008-2009 academic year, in which St. Thomas’ participation rate, 58.9 percent, was ranked seventh nationally among doctoral institutions. The rate is based on the number of undergraduate students who participated in study-abroad programs (751) and the number of undergraduate degrees conferred (1274).

These rankings mark the seventh year in 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 Pepperdine University, followed by University of San Diego, Wake Forest University, University of Denver, American University and Dartmouth College. Just behind St. Thomas were University of Notre Dame, Yale University, Georgetown University and Syracuse University.

These numbers show a slight decrease from St. Thomas’ previous academic year’s data from 2007-2008, which ranked St. Thomas fourth in 2009, with 783 students who studied abroad. Ann Hubbard, interim director of the International Education Center, notes that “while St. Thomas has a strong national ranking for its numbers, it also has a strong national reputation for program quality, especially with its review process of curriculum and pedagogy established by UST faculty.”

Study-abroad participation rates also were strong at other Minnesota colleges and universities. Top master’s institutions included Bethel University, 15th (39.4 percent); and Augsburg College, 32nd (31.5 percent). Earning top participation rates at baccalaureate degree institutions were St. Olaf College, fifth (98.6 percent); Carleton College, 13th (80.7 percent); Macalester College, 23rd (70.2 percent); and Concordia College − Moorhead, 32nd (65.9 percent).

In 2008-2009, Minnesota sent 9,050 students outside of its borders, down from 9,579 in 2007-2008. Nationally, study-abroad participation was down 0.8 percent, with 260,327 studying internationally in 2008-2009.

Top destinations
Open Doors Report 2010 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 the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain topping the list in 2008-2009. 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 Argentina, Egypt and the Dominican Republic represented – a trend reflected in the national results.

Nationally, 15 of the top 25 countries that enrolled American students in 2008-09 were outside of Western Europe – a traditionally strong draw—with the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and France reporting declines in American attendance. China, the fifth-ranked destination, rose 4 percent.

Meanwhile, less conventional destinations had double-digit spikes in American-student attendance: Argentina (15 percent), South Africa (12 percent), Chile (28 percent), the Netherlands (14 percent), Denmark (21 percent), Peru (32 percent) and South Korea (29 percent).

Notably, 19 countries in the top 25 were represented by countries in which English is not the primary language.

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 2010 reports more recent (2009-10) results for rankings of international students studying in the United States. With 11,550 international students studying in Minnesota in the 2009-2010 academic year, Minnesota ranked 18th in the nation for its total number of foreign students. This indicates a 6.5 percent increase over the previous academic year. In comparison, the international student rate increased 3 percent nationally, with 690,923 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 326 students in 2009-2010. The University of Minnesota ranked first (4,665), followed by St. Cloud State University (1,348) and Minnesota State University – Mankato (686).

The total number of international students at St. Thomas appears to be steadily increasing (301 in fall 2008, 316 in fall 2009 and 353 in fall 2010). 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 2008, 89 international students enrolled as undergraduates at St. Thomas; in fall 2009, 122 students enrolled; and in fall 2010, the number jumped to 134 students, a 66 percent increase over three years. The top countries of origin for all international students at St. Thomas in fall of 2010 are, in order, India, Saudi Arabia, China and Uganda.

Nationally, China saw a 30 percent surge in student enrollment in the United States, with 128,000 students total, more than enough to overtake India (105,000) for the top spot. South Korea remained in third.

More about the Open Doors report
Learn more about the Open Doors Report 2010 and its data here.

This week is International Education Week
Celebrate International Education Week (Nov. 15-19) by testing your Global IQ on the U.S. Department of State/Department of Education’s International Education Week website.