For years, participation in study abroad programs was overwhelmingly white, but the racial disparity appears to be narrowing slightly amid efforts to increase access for underrepresented students, Diverse Issues in Higher Education reports. In 2005, the Institute of International Education (IIE) found that 83 percent of U.S. college students who studied abroad were white. That had decreased to 70.8 percent by 2016-17, when Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islander, and African-American students accounted for 10.2 percent, 8.2 percent, 6.1 percent of U.S. college students studying abroad, respectively.
Promoting opportunities and removing hurdles
Recognizing how study abroad opportunities can transform students’ worldview and enrich their academic and professional credentials, nonprofit organizations and minority-serving institutions (MSIs) are promoting study abroad opportunities to students of color and targeting common barriers to participation.
The Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), for instance, “addresses historic barriers to study-abroad access: cost, curriculum, and culture,” according to Diverse Issues. The nonprofit has added short-term study abroad programs, matched students with grants and scholarships, provided thousands of free passports, and even paid for the airfare of Pell grant-eligible students. “We’re trying to change the perceptions about why [study abroad] matters,” says Dr. Keshia Abraham, CIEE’s director of strategic initiatives. “…It’s not just about the trip, about travel—it’s learning more about yourself and what is possible for you.”
Dr. Lenore Rodicio, Miami Dade College’s executive vice president and provost, echoes that sentiment. “Studying abroad is an opportunity that we think is critical for our students’ growth,” she told Diverse Issues. “For many who go, it is their first plane ride. Some have never been out of the country. It is a really enriching experience for them.”
Miami Dade College, a Hispanic-serving institution, has launched several initiatives to increase study abroad participation and remove financial barriers, including programs serving students who have experienced homelessness or have been in foster care. Ninety-three percent of the 146 Miami Dade students who studied abroad in 2016-17 were from underrepresented groups, according to Rodicio.