The number of international students studying at colleges
and universities in the United States
was at an all-time high in the 2008-09 academic year, and Ohio University's
numbers reflect the trend.
The Institute for International Education (IIE), with
support from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural
Affairs, released "Open Doors: Report on International Educational Exchange"
The IIE report states that 671,616 international students
attended American colleges and universities in 2008-09, an increase of 8
percent from the previous academic year. The state of Ohio ranked ninth in the nation for hosting
international students, with 20,725, up 7.1 percent from the previous year.
According to the report, the Athens campus hosted 1,346 international
students during the 2008-09 academic year. Ohio University's
Office of Institutional Research reported 1,451 international students in the
2008-09 school year, up from 1,256 the year before – a 15.5 percent increase.
(These numbers include College
of Business international
programs, which the IIE report does not include.)
"The major increase from 2008 to 2009 is primarily due to a
continued influx of undergraduates from China. If you look at the IIE
report, that's consistent with what's happening across the U.S.," said Vicki
Seefeldt West, senior assistant director for international recruitment.
She pointed to a growing Chinese upper class, the weak U.S.
dollar and a lack of enough spaces in Chinese universities for qualified
students. China is the
second top place of origin for international students nationally (behind India) and number one at OHIO. On the Athens
campus, the top five countries represented also include India, Ghana,
Taiwan and South Korea.
"It is very unusual for an American university to have Ghana among the
top five countries of origin for international students," Seefeldt West said.
"This is due in large part to the strength and partnerships of OHIO's African Studies
Program - a Title VI National Resource Center - and the work of African Studies
Director Steve Howard."
The report estimates the economic impact of international
students in the state of Ohio at more than
$500 million and in the Athens
community at more than $34 million.
Fewer OHIO students
going abroad, more studying outside of western Europe
Nationally, 262,416 American college students studied abroad
in the 2007-08 academic year (the most recent year reported in the IIE study), an
increase of 8.5 percent, but OHIO
saw fewer students studying abroad from the previous academic year – 854
compared to 904. That amounts to 16.5 percent of OHIO students studying abroad for academic
Assistant Director of Education Abroad Lori Lammert said
these numbers, which are reported to IIE, don't tell the whole story.
"We have about 100 participants who aren't counted in the
official number because we can't include international students, we can't
include students from other universities going on our programs and we can't
included non credit students," Lammert said, "We have a lot of medical programs
and those participants going for medical programs aren't enrolling for credit."
Lammert also pointed out that OHIO saw increases in the number of students
studying abroad from 317 in 1995-96 to 1063 in 2004-05. "I think that large
amount of growth actually exceeded the national average and I think we're kind
of leveling off," she said.
Additionally, Lammert said, other factors – for example,
programs that only take students abroad every other year – contribute to
fluctuations in the numbers.
While Western Europe is still the leading destination for
students nationally and at OHIO, the number of
American students studying in Africa, Asia and Latin
America are up. Increasing numbers of Ohio University-sponsored
students are studying abroad in less traditional countries as well, such as Ghana, where OHIO has several programs.
The IIE report states that trends toward less expensive
destinations and shorter stays will continue due to the economic recession.
"I think it would be unfortunate for too many students to
discount the experience due to the current economy," Lammert said. "If anything,
study abroad can give students an advantage when they go out looking for jobs
during this tough economic time."
"(Study abroad students) can say, 'I've had this experience.
I traveled independently, I know how to communicate with people from all sorts
of backgrounds.' I think that cross-cultural knowledge is really important in