Iowa outpacing the nation in student abroad programs

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By Brian Morelli, Iowa City Press-Citizen

Iowa’s public universities are in the import-export business when it comes to international studies, and overall, business is good.

The state’s public universities have been sending more and more students to study abroad while nationally there has been a decline, and the number of international students enrolling at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa is increasing at a greater rate than the national average.

“I think students these days are really opened up to the idea of travel and getting perspectives they can only get overseas,” said John Rogers, a UI assistant director for study abroad.

Nationally, Americans studying abroad decreased 0.8 percent from 2007-08 to 2008-09, or from 262,416 to 260,327, according to the Open Doors 2010 report. Meanwhile, international student enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities increased 3 percent to 690,923 in 2009-10, according to the report, which is compiled annually by the Institute of International Education.

UI appears to be driving Iowa’s increases in study abroad, while ISU saw a slight decline and UNI did not have appropriate figures available to compare.

For the same year-to-year comparison as the 2010 Open Doors report, UI sent 5.3 percent more students abroad, or 1,283 students in 2008-09.

Phil Carls, an assistant director in the study abroad office, said a 2009-10 report is not complete, but it appears the number will increase slightly, which is a success given the economy.

ISU saw a 3 percent decline from 1,200 students studying abroad in 2007-08 to 1,161 in 2008-09, according to online ISU reports. Participation dropped again by 16 percent to 974 students in 2009-10.

“I think students these days are really opened up to the idea of travel and getting perspectives they can only get overseas.”
– John Rogers

“In part, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said Trevor Nelson, director of the ISU Study Abroad Center. “Some of the programming directors felt we would have difficulty recruiting students, so maybe they didn’t recruit as hard as they could have, and some programs were dropped.”

UNI could not be compared because of missing figures for 2008-09, but participation increased from 447 in 2007-08 to 482 in 2009-10, according to the UNI Study Abroad Center.

International student enrollment has been increasing throughout the Iowa state Board of Regents system.

As a whole, the number of international students increased by 739 students, or 14.3 percent, from 5,152 in fall 2008 to 5,891 in fall 2009, which is well above the 3 percent national average increase for that period.

International enrollment increased again this year by 12.6 percent, according to the regents. The majority of international students at Iowa’s public universities — 85.7 percent — come from Asia, according to a regent enrollment report.

ISU has had the greatest growth in this area. International enrollment at ISU grew 21 percent, from 2,497 in fall 2008 to 3,017 in fall 2009. Enrollment grew again this year by 310 students, to 3,327.

UNI saw a slight dip in enrollment of 2 percent, from 464 students in fall 2008 to 453 in fall 2010, but it jumped back up to 480 in fall 2010.

UI’s international student enrollment increased by almost 9 percent in fall 2009 to 2,589 — 210 students more than in fall 2008. In fall 2010, there are 2,825 international students enrolled.

“This is the fourth year I’ve been to the Middle East,” said Scott King, assistant dean of UI International Programs, “and it’s gone from, ‘Iowa who?’ to people who actually seek us out at these meetings these days. We’ve started to make a name for ourselves, and that is going to help in enrollment.”

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