As Study Abroad Becomes More Crucial, Few Low-Income Students Go

Career College Central summary:

  • The number of Americans studying abroad has tripled over the last two decades, as students increasingly see the academic, social and professional advantages of overseas experiences, and university officials shore up their international programs in response. But, for both cultural and financial reasons, it’s an opportunity first-generation and minority college students are less likely to get.
  • At a growing number of universities, those disparities are raising concerns over equity and changing demographics. As higher education becomes more diverse, universities eager to maintain vibrant study abroad programs must expand their reach and appeal, said Andrew Gordon, president of Diversity Abroad, which connects nonwhite, first-generation, and low-income students with foreign study opportunities.
  • Universities are taking such steps as sponsoring student passport fees and encouraging networking among minority parents, with some success. Yet the gaps have persisted. Nonwhites make up just under 40 percent of U.S. college and university students, but only 24 percent of study-abroad participants, according to a report by the Washington D.C.-based Institute of International Education.
  • Blacks and Hispanics are particularly underrepresented. Blacks — who make up 13 percent of all students — account for only 5 percent of Americans who study abroad, and Hispanics 7.5 percent, compared to their 11 percent share of enrollment overall. (Asian students make up 7.7 percent of study-abroad participants, a higher share than their 6.7 percent of total enrollment.)

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