During the 2004-2005 academic year, over 190,000 U.S. university students studied abroad according to Institute for International Educations' Open Doors 2005 Report – a record number. So,study us how many international students studied abroad in the United States that year? Any guesses?
While the Open Doors 2005 report estimates that 239,212 international degree- seeking students studied at U.S. universities during the 2004-2005 academic year, there seems to be no survey which tracks traditional "study abroad" students in the United States, i.e. those students who study for a semester or a year before returning to the home institutions. One proxy could be the number of undergraduate international students who are on J-1 (exchange) visas. According to Open Doors 2005, 3.1% or 7,416 international undergraduate students were on J-1 visa in 2004-5 academic year. If this is an accurate measure, then the total number of study abroad students in the United States has dropped by 8.3% over the last three years from a high of 8,093 in the 2001/2002 academic year. This decrease mirrors the decrease in overall undergraduate international students at U.S. universities and colleges. In contrast, since the introduction of the Erasmus program in Europe in 1987, international student mobility within Europe, especially study abroad, has increased dramatically. The total number of students who have studied outside their home country on exchange within Europe has increased by 25% from 115,432 in 2001 to 144,037 in . U.S. institutions, therefore, compare very badly with their peer institutions in Europe and have done little to attract study abroad students from the rest of the world, even as they promote the value of study abroad to their own students. This is a contradiction that needs to be addressed.
In 2003, Dr. Robert Pastor, Vice President of International Affairs at American University (AU) chaired a project team which was tasked with transforming AU into the "Premier Global University." The second recommendation of the project team's final report was to develop a new program to bring the students from universities all over the world to study for a year or a semester at AU. This new "Abroad at AU" program was to provide AU students with a chance to learn about the world on our own campus through the experience of interacting with their peers from abroad, and to choose a place where they would like to study abroad themselves. The program was also designed to generate a transformation of the international educational experience on campus by integrating these visiting international students into the social, cultural and academic life of the university. For the international students, the program was a unique opportunity to experience life at a U.S. university, as well as learn about the broader political, social and cultural issues which shape America and its relations with the rest of the worldstudy us.
The centerpiece of the program was the development of two innovative courses: "What is America" and "How Washington Works." Leveraging AU's particular strengths and its location in Washington, DC, these two courses provide the conceptual framework for understanding the United States, its history, its people and its institutions. "What is America" which is offered in the Fall, delves beneath the stereotypes to come to a deeper understanding of American culture, economy, history, politics, and society in all their diversity and complexity. "How Washington Works" which is offered in the Spring, focuses on how the key political actors in Washington—including the President, Congress, Supreme Court, interest groups, the press, embassies, and international organizations — conduct their business. To supplement the classroom experience, Abroad at AU students have the opportunity to participate in non-credit internships within the agencies and organizations that are studied in the course. For the remainder of their course work, students have access to AU's full undergraduate curriculum. All students successfully completing the program, whether for a semester or a year, receive a Certificate in the American Experience to acknowledge their academic work at AU.
Another unique aspect of the program is that international students can attend not only as exchange students, but also as fee-paying non-degree students. Because the traditional bilateral student exchange mechanism proved too rigid for an institution which is private and tuition driven, AU chose to offer a fee-paying option as well. . Under a traditional exchange arrangement, students pay tuition only to their home universities, so, in essence, the outgoing student "funds" the incoming student. For a private university which must account for all tuition dollars, balancing this flow becomes extremely critical and the necessary financial balance is extremely difficult to achieve over the short-term If AU had pursued this model, the university would have been limited to partnerships with institutions where its students currently study abroad. Therefore, study usto demonstrate its commitment to the program, the AU administration approved a special discounted tuition rate which is approximately 1/3 of AU's normal tuition rate. For the 2006-2007 academic year, the tuition for the Abroad at AU program is only $5,250 per semester.