Four Georgia universities have joined a national effort to double the number of U.S. students who participate in international study programs by 2019.
The New York-based Institute of International Education, which helps administer the U.S. government’s Fulbright program and publishes the annual Open Doors report tracking international student exchange, aims to sign up 500 institutions for its five-year Generation Study Abroad pledge.
While a record 295,000 Americans joined an overseas program in 2011-12, only about 9 percent of the country’s 2.6 million graduates that year had enjoyed an international educational experience.
Many U.S. universities have embraced the idea that global experience is essential to a well-rounded education, but exchange figures have remained lopsided in favor of foreign students coming to the United States.
The IIE is asking universities and colleges to help tip the balance by taking concrete steps toward boosting funding and awareness of study abroad on their campuses. The goal is to send 600,000 Americans overseas annually by 2019.
More than 300 universities have pledged to set “significant” goals and keep the IIE apprised of their progress while highlighting the program itself to drive interest among other schools.
The universities are not required to double their own study-abroad numbers, and the IIE has kept its requirements vague, but it has promised to award five high performers with $10,000 grants each to spur their efforts further.
The four Georgia universities signed up so far include Dalton State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Spelman College and Oglethorpe University.
Georgia Tech said in a March release that it plans to expand access to study abroad in underrepresented majors by attracting more scholarship funding, open service learning programs in countries where it has no presence and expand internship opportunities overseas for graduates and undergraduates. The school stopped short of defining how much it would improve upon its tally of 1,500 study-abroad participants.
Oglethorpe University was more clear on the numbers: Only 10 percent of its total 1,025 students went overseas last year, but that will go up by 40 percent as part of the pledge, which is simply augmenting existing efforts to internationalize the small liberal arts college. One example: a Global Oglethorpe initiative is set to launch this summer with a study-abroad program in Rome.
Universities aiming to participate in the IIE program must sign up by October 2014 so they can be recognized during International Education Week in November.
More on the pledge here: http://www.iie.org/Programs/Generation-Study-Abroad