Jan 5, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

The US is a major mecca for international students, but are its own students seeking out the same opportunities in other countries? Not so much, according to the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) report, “Open Doors 2016.” Here’s a closer look at the findings, along with what one organization is doing to raise awareness about the value of outward-bound exchange among American students.

Rising, But Not There Yet

According to IIIE data, the number of US students who received credit for studies abroad in 2014-2015 grew to 313,000 -- up three percent from the previous year -- but still representing less than 10 percent of the country’s total student population.

Said Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, “We need to empower more of America’s future leaders to experience the world beyond our borders. International education helps people develop the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in today’s global economy, and creates networks across borders that improve international understanding and strengthen the national security of the United States.”

Experts also cite a troubling lack of gender, racial and ethnic diversity among US students who studied abroad last year, with women making up 67 percent; racial and ethnic minorities comprising 27 percent; and people with disabilities accounting for just five percent.

Said IIIE President Dr. Allan E. Goodman, “Studying abroad is one of the best ways to prepare to enter and succeed in the interconnected, globalized workforce, yet 90 percent of American college students do not study or intern outside of the United States. We owe it to the next generation of Americans to find ways to make it more accessible to a wider range of students.”

The Push to Double Numbers

The IIE’s Generation Study Abroad is taking ambitious action in the hopes of reversing the trend. Its goal? To double the number of US students who study abroad -- in both credit and noncredit programs -- to 600,000 by the decade’s end.

Last month, the group convened its annual summit, where stakeholders came together to explore new ways to exchange ideas about how to better support international study opportunities for US students. Said David Wilson, President of Morgan State University, a historically black college in Maryland which has successfully implemented several initiatives to raise outward-bound mobility on campus,  “Our students must understand that if they are going to lead our country for the decades to come, that they have to understand every aspect of the world. And the world needs to know them.”

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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