MS. REBECCA SHEIR
When it comes to students across the world, a new study shows there's more than a moderate interest in studying abroad. The Institute of International Education says, study abroad programs are more popular than ever and the nation's capital draws its fair share of foreign students. Education reporter, Kavitha Cardoza was at the National Press Club in downtown D.C. when the study was released earlier this week and she's here now to get us up to speed on the research, hi Kavitha.
MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA
So the U.S. has historically been a top destination for students from other countries. Can you give us a snap shot of how many students are coming here and where they come from?
Well, a record number of foreign students, more than 723,000 came to the U.S. study last year and of those 36,000 foreign students study in the District, Maryland and Virginia.
So about 36,000 students here in the D.C. region. What universities do they tend to flock to?
In the D.C. metro area, the University of Maryland, College Park, George Washington University and Johns Hopkins University lead the pack.
Now, obviously we have students coming from all over the world, which will lead to a very diverse student body. And that's a good thing, but what other benefits come from opening your campus to the world, so to speak?
In a word, Rebecca, money. Assistant Secretary of State, Ann Stock, says these foreign students have a major financial impact.
MS. ANN STOCK
International education is a major growth industry for the United States. Even in tough economic times, last year, foreign students brought $21.3 billion to local economies nationwide.
Locally foreign students brought an approximately $400 million to Maryland, $400 million to Virginia and $300 million to D.C.
Okay. So what about the flip side of the coin? Students from the U.S. who then spend a semester elsewhere, you know, overseas, you said those numbers are on the rise as well?
Yes. During the 2009, 2010 academic year, 270,000 American college students participated in study abroad programs. And what's interesting is that they're increasingly choosing non-English speaking, non-West European countries. While the top choice is still the UK, now 14 of the top 25 countries are outside Europe and in 19 of them, English is not the main language. Students want to go to countries such as China, Brazil, India and New Zealand. Assistant Secretary Stock says though that overall, the numbers must increase.
The United States can and must do better in today's global economy. Right now, there are 21 million college students in the United States. But less than two percent of them take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad.
Patricia Chow is a researcher at the Institute of International Education. She says this is the first year minority students comprised more than 20 percent of study abroad participants, but she says those numbers need to increase as well.
MS. PATRICIA CHOW
It shows that there is still some way for us to go before American study abroad fully represents the diversity of U.S. higher education. Over 1/3 of Americans in U.S. higher educations are racial and ethnic minorities. That is a gap between the 1/5 who are studying abroad.
So do you think we're going to keep breaking records each year when it comes to study abroad?
That's what experts expect will happen, but there may be ups and downs from year to year. Rob Hallworth heads the study abroad program at George Washington University here in the district. He says many factors go into where and whether a student decides to study abroad. Including some you might not think of.
MR. ROB HALLWORTH
Every four years with the election cycle, we see a decrease. Everybody wanted to be on campus when the Obama election happened. We have a very politically engaged student body. So we're expecting maybe a little bit of a downturn again in 2012.
Interesting. So basically, American students will opt to stay home next year so they can have a front row seat for the Presidential race. And presumable, that election will also be a draw for students from other countries, right, who want to witness the way politics are played here in Washington?
Well, Kavitha, thanks so much for giving us this update on the world of study abroad.
If you're a foreign student living here in Washington, we want to hear about your experience of American higher education. You can reach us at Facebook.com/metroconnection.org or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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