U.S. Higher Education Institutions Report Study Abroad Program Efficiencies and Responses to Economic Conditions in Annual Survey by IES Abroad

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Colleges and Universities Project Study Abroad Enrollment to Increase for 2011-2012 Academic Year

Study abroad provider programs are far more efficient for higher education institutions to manage than exchange programs according to the 2011 IES Abroad Membership Survey Report, an annual survey of the nearly 200 top-tier public and private American colleges and universities that comprise the IES Abroad Academic Consortium.

On average, study abroad offices spend 12% of staff time managing exchange programs which are attended by only 6% of study abroad students. In comparison, study abroad offices spend 48% of staff time managing provider programs which enroll 52% of study abroad students.

The Report also indicates that faculty-led programs, increasingly popular on campuses, appear to be more labor-intensive for institutions to manage relative to provider programs. Study abroad offices spend 31% of staff time managing faculty-led programs which only enroll 33% of study abroad students; the additional time spent by faculty and administrative staff on these programs is not included in this percentage. When this additional time is included, faculty-led programs appear less efficient to manage, relative to the number of students enrolled.

This finding is significant for study abroad offices, especially as a growing number of colleges and universities report pursuing their own study abroad programming, such as faculty-led and exchange programs, in response to current economic and fiscal challenges.

When these findings of the Report are compared, the statistics indicate that provider programs are highly efficient in terms of the number of students enrolled relative to staff time spent managing them. This is generally more significant at larger institutions with student bodies of 10,000 and higher.

Schools Respond to Economic Conditions
In response to the continued challenge of difficult economic conditions, almost 50% of respondents reported that their institutions have cut operational costs and are pursuing changes in study abroad programming to answer student needs. Public institutions are more likely than private institutions to report lowering their students’ costs by seeking programs in less expensive geographic areas and using short-term programs.

Enrollment Trends
The 2011 Report also draws some conclusions about study abroad enrollment trends, showing continuing interest among students to participate in international education programs.

During the 2011-2012 academic year, institutions in the IES Abroad Academic Consortium project study abroad enrollments to increase 5% overall from 2010-2011 numbers. Fall term and full-year study abroad enrollments are projected to remain constant, while spring term enrollment is projected to increase by 8%.

The survey also shows that the summer term is the most popular time for public institution college students to study abroad, with such institutions reporting that, on average, 45% of their students study abroad during this time.

The 2011 IES Abroad Membership Survey Report, compiled from self-reported data, serves as a snapshot of small and large public and private colleges and universities. IES Abroad has been issuing membership surveys, from which it collects the data, to its consortium since 1999.

IES Abroad, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2010, is a global, not-for-profit academic consortium offering study abroad programs to more than 5,500 U.S. college students each year who participate in 100 programs at 34 international locations. IES Abroad offers programs in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, New Zealand and South America. http://www.IESAbroad.org

In October of 2010, IES Abroad received the prestigious Quality Improvement Program (QUIP) designation from The Forum on Education Abroad for meeting the highest standards for study abroad programming and evaluation in the nation.


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Carol Jambor-Smith