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William & Mary garners top spot in study abroad among public universities

  • Studying abroad:
    Studying abroad:  During the 2016-2017 academic year, by IIE criteria, 817 William & Mary undergraduate students studied abroad for academic credit, constituting 53.6 percent of the undergraduate student body. Students here are pictured in South Africa.  Photo courtesy of the Reves Center
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For the second year in a row, William & Mary has the highest percentage of undergraduates participating in study-abroad programs compared to any other public university in the United States, according to a report released Nov. 13 by the Institute of International Education (IIE). This is the seventh time in the last 10 years that the university has held that position.

Open Doors 2018, published by IIE in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), highlights the impact of international education on the U.S. higher education sector, examining the numbers and profile of international students in the United States in 2017-2018 and of U.S. students receiving academic credit for study abroad in 2016-2017 academic year.

During that time period, by IIE criteria, 817 William & Mary undergraduate students studied abroad for academic credit, constituting 53.6 percent of the undergraduate student body.

The university is a leader among global education even when compared with private universities, ranking 16th in the report’s list of top 40 doctorate-granting institutions, both public and private, moving up from 20th (with a 48.9 percent participation rate) in 2015-2016.  The only other doctorate-granting institution in the top 40 from the Commonwealth is the University of Virginia (ranked 24th with 45.1 percent participation). The chart is attached.

“William & Mary’s top ranking among public universities for study-abroad participation is an achievement of which the whole university can be justly proud,” said Stephen E. Hanson, vice provost for international affairs and director of the Reves Center for International Studies. “This success is a reflection of many factors, including the introduction of our new undergraduate COLL Curriculum within which study abroad is explicitly promoted, the great support of W&M faculty across every department and discipline, the hard work and vision of the Reves Center staff and of course the deep global engagement of W&M students themselves.”  

William & Mary’s Reves Center for International Studies offers students a diverse selection of study-abroad opportunities through the Global Education Office (GEO). Students receive support, information, resources and guidance on various study-abroad programs and international university exchanges through GEO, which also provides workshops, peer advising and re-entry assistance for students returning from their study-abroad experience.

“Study abroad has become an integral part of a W&M liberal arts education by providing opportunities for students to challenge themselves in unfamiliar contexts, engage with ideas and knowledge new to them and self-reflectively consider their place in the world,” said Sylvia Mitterndorfer, Director of Global Education for the Reves Center. “We are committed to increasing international opportunities, access and engagement for all students who wish to study abroad, with values of diversity and inclusion at the core of our mission. More students are participating in study abroad, going to a greater variety of destinations and studying across all majors. In addition, we are grateful to award more than $530,000 annually for study-abroad scholarships as part of efforts to reduce financial barriers.”

Americans studying abroad

Considering U.S. students overall, study-abroad numbers grew by 2.3 percent, with 332,727 Americans studying abroad for academic credit at their home institutions in 2016-2017. Continuing a positive trend over the past decade, approximately one in 10 U.S. students now study abroad during their undergraduate careers.

In addition, Open Doors 2018 shows that the profile of U.S. students going abroad continues to diversify. The number of students who identify as racial or ethnic minorities who studied abroad in 2016-2017 was 29.2 percent. In 2005-2006, racial and ethnic minorities accounted for only 17 percent of the stud- abroad population.

“Expanding access to opportunity through international education helps us build stronger ties across the world,” said Allan E. Goodman, president and CEO of IIE. “International students have more choices than ever before on where to pursue higher education. The dedication of American colleges and universities to students’ academic, professional and personal success is one of the main factors in our international competitiveness.”

International students in the U.S.

The number of international students in the United States surpassed one million for the third consecutive year, increasing by 1.5 percent to reach a new high of 1,094,792, according to the report.

The United States remains the top host of international students globally. International students made a significant financial impact on the United States in 2017, contributing $42.4 billion to the U.S. economy through tuition, room and board, and other expenses, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“International students studying alongside Americans are a tremendous asset to the United States,” said Marie Royce, assistant secretary of state for educational and ultural affairs. “We need to develop leaders in all fields who can take on our toughest challenges. We need people who can find solutions that keep us secure and make us more prosperous. We want to send a message that international education makes us stronger as a country.”

While overall numbers of international students increased, new student enrollments fell by 6.6 percent in 2017-2018, corroborating findings from the 2017 fall enrollment survey and continuing a slowing or downward trend first observed in the 2015-2016 academic year. Current gains in the total number of international students are due primarily to increased participation in the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which allows international students to practice their skills in the United States for up to 12 months during or after they complete their academic programs, or up to 36 months for graduate students in STEM fields. OPT participation grew by 15.8 percent in 2017-2018. Among enrolled students, drops were seen primarily at the graduate and non-degree levels.

According to data from NAFSA: Association of International Educators, international students and scholars in the Williamsburg area in 2016-2017 had more than a $34.1 million impact on the 2nd U.S. Congressional District’s economy, supporting 542 jobs.

Steve Sechrist, director of International Students, Scholars and Programs (ISSP) at the Reves Center, notes that the significance of an international academic community lies at the core of the mission of a university.

“Universities exist to create and share knowledge, to contribute to society’s understanding of the world in which we live. A university cannot be global without a diverse community of students, scholars, faculty and staff from around the world. They form the foundation of its global network and the perspectives and expertise they share enable us collectively to address the issues of our day and those of future generations. Therefore, it is essential that we continue to be a welcoming community, first as an institution and then at the national level.”