Challenges to Building Study Abroad Capacity

Turns out, it's mainly about the money, a survey shows.
May 28, 2009

LOS ANGELES -- The Institute of International Education released a white paper on expanding study abroad capacity at U.S. colleges Wednesday in conjunction with the ongoing NAFSA: Association of International Educators conference. A 2008 survey conducted by IIE and the Forum on Education Abroad found that 83 percent of institutions are actively trying to send more students abroad. In the short term, most colleges expect the growth to be relatively modest -- 77 percent expect a growth of 1 to 25 percent over the next two years. However, over the next 10 years, 45 percent of institutions expect growth exceeding 25 percent.

Paying for these increases in study abroad remains the main difficulty, with the most frequently cited challenges being rising costs for students (89 percent of respondents said this), insufficient scholarship or endowment support from the home college (79 percent), and increasing costs for program management and operation (73 percent).

Following those were inadequate federal funding available to students for study abroad (72 percent), too few staff and advisers to handle increased numbers of students (59 percent) and insufficient interest on the part of faculty in integrating study abroad into degree requirements (48 percent). In total, 290 institutions answered the "snapshot" survey, including 252 degree-granting colleges, and 38 other entities including third-party program providers and consortia.

"Interestingly, physical capacity -- having enough program or program space to meet the demand from students -- did not seem to present a challenge for the majority of institutions, as only 16 percent agreed that this posed a challenge," the white paper notes.

Also interestingly, in terms of host country capacity, "An earlier report in the same series of white papers found that from the perspective of host countries, the greatest room for growth was in longer-term programs including full-degree study opportunities. Yet the trend from the U.S. indicates that U.S. students continue to study abroad in programs of shorter duration, presenting a potential supply-demand conflict with program opportunities offered in host countries. The findings of the current U.S.-based survey also suggest that short-term study abroad programs will remain a primary area of growth from the perspective of U.S. sending institutions."


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