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Outbound US study abroad down 91%

The total number of US students who studied abroad for academic credit declined by 91% in 2020/21 academic year, according to new 2022 Open Doors Report data.

Some 427 institutions reported that over 32,000 students received academic credit for an online global learning experience in 2020/21. Photo: Unsplash

More than 1,500 students participated in in non-credit work abroad

Some 14,549 US students studied abroad for academic credit during the year, compared to 162,633 in the 2019/20 academic year.

Photo: Open Doors

According to the report, a further 1,500 students participated in non-credit work abroad – whether that be internships, volunteering or research conducted abroad.

“The pandemic has taken its toll on all of us,” said Stephen Robinson, director at Champlain College‘s Dublin campus. He told The PIE News he has heard “mixed messages regarding recovery” from his colleagues across Europe.

“Some programs have bounced right back to their usual numbers, but others have not recovered as we had thought they would,” he said.

“While we projected a rapid post-Covid recovery, we need to remember that this cohort of junior year study abroad students started their college during the pandemic, and perhaps they’re just looking for some sort of on-campus normalcy, and not looking to study abroad,” Robinson added.

“Perhaps [students] are just looking for some sort of on-campus normalcy, and not looking to study abroad”

Despite this, Robinson remains optimistic about US study abroad in the not too distant future, with Champlain College aiming to have 70% of students graduating with an international experience by 2030.

“At Champlain College we are now seeing strong study abroad interest from the current sophomores and first years, so hopefully a full recovery is on its way soon,” he added.

Kelly Heath, director of study abroad at Webster University – one of the participating institutions in the Open Doors 2022 survey – told The PIE that the university recorded zero study abroad enrolments due to all programs being suspended until the summer of 2021.

Webster was able to re-start such programs with relative ease due to the fact it has campuses abroad with “significant on-site resources”, she said.

“The recovery has been positive, but we are still trying to reach pre-Covid-19 enrolments,” she explained.

“There has been growing interest in short-term faculty led programs because one-three week programs are more within most students’ comfort zone for travel right now. My assessment is that study abroad numbers will see a more dramatic rebound during the 2023/24 academic year and onward.”

Further key findings from the report suggest that appetite for study abroad within US students never ceased, but were instead put on hold due to Covid-19 limitations on travel since 427 institutions reported that more than 32,000 students received academic credit for an online global learning experience in 2020/21.

Furthermore, the report highlights that 58% of all study abroad during this time occurred in the summer of 2021, which the report states is an “early indication of a return to in-person study abroad”.

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