How badly did study abroad programs suffer this past school year?

During the 2019-2020 school year, 162,633 students studied abroad. However, that number took a substantial hit the next school year.

COVID-19 interrupted every educational opportunity imaginable, from simple instruction to athletic events and, most notably, a substantial number of study abroad programs.

Source: Open Doors

During the 2019-2020 school year, 162,633 students studied abroad. That number took a substantial hit the following school year: According to data from a 2022 report from Open Doors, an annual census-taking organization that focuses on international students, a mere 14,549 students had the opportunity to study abroad during the 2020-2021 academic year—a 96% decline in participation since before the pandemic.

In the coming years, experts predict enrollment in study abroad programs will bounce back significantly. According to The Power of International Education’s Spring 2022 Snapshot, 83% of higher education institutions reported an uptick in study abroad numbers for the 2022-2023 school year compared to last year.

“In summer 2021, 43% of institutions noted study abroad cancellations, whereas less than one percent of institutions anticipated that study abroad would be canceled in spring 2023,” the report reads.

During the pandemic, students were forced to take an alternative approach to abroad learning, according to the Open Doors report. In addition to those who were able to study abroad during the 2020-2021 school year, 32,000 participated in online global learning experiences.

“U.S. colleges and universities provided a wide array of online opportunities for students to gain global educational experiences,” the data highlights on their website. “The most popular online experiences included internships and consulting with global companies, courses paired across institutions that work together, collaborative project-based learning, and videoconferencing dialogues.”

Additionally, more than 50% of all higher education institutions reported offering multiple opportunities for online global learning.

“This is an area where we have seen tremendous growth in institutional reporting over the past year,” the data highlights read. “In 2019-20, approximately 250 institutions reported students taking part in online global learning opportunities. In 2020-2021, 427 institutions provided data about students participating in these programs, nearly double the number of institutions that reported data in the prior year.”

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Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a University Business staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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