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International exchange among university students at record high

OHIO reflects most of the national, international trends
Nov 18, 2009
By Mary Reed

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" Nov. 16.

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 credit.

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 any field."


Published: Nov 18, 2009 1:46 PM

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