In a world of greater interconnectedness and global economic interdependence, study abroad has become
increasingly important for U.S. students to attain international knowledge, cross-cultural communication
skills, and intercultural competence. The number of U.S. students participating in study abroad continues
to grow each year: in 2008, almost 1,000 U.S. campuses reported to IIE a record-high 240,000 American
students who earned academic credit for study abroad the prior academic year. Despite strong growth in
the number of students participating each year, the rate of participation remains extremely small, given
that the vast majority of a population of nearly 18 million students enrolled in the U.S. higher education
system never study abroad.
This disparity demonstrates an enormous need to provide more opportunities to a greater number of U.S.
Americans for international education experiences. Moreover, there is a significant need to continue to
make effective and efficient use of available resources to expand study abroad opportunities to all students,
especially those who are underrepresented, including minority students, low-income students, students
with disabilities, and those coming from non-traditional fields of study.
As U.S. higher education institutions seek to expand the availability of study abroad, they face
challenges at a variety of institutional levels. Efforts to send a greater number of U.S. students abroad
require that policy makers and administrators develop innovative strategies to effectively use scarce
resources, offer quality programs that meet students’ academic needs, and expand the availability of
study abroad to a diverse range of students. As U.S. student participation in study abroad continues to
grow, institutions must ensure that there is also adequate capacity at receiving institutions to accept
increasing numbers of students and continue to offer a diverse and expanding range of quality programs.
These central issues characterize the focus of IIE’s Meeting America’s Global Education Challenge
series, an initiative that was launched to create awareness and dialogue in study abroad capacity with
the goal of expanding capacity and opportunities for all students.
Since 2007, IIE has published six White Papers that are available for download here.