Most schools see drop in study abroad; not St. Thomas

Economic reality and money problems may be cooling the enthusiasm of U.S. college students to study abroad — but not at St. Thomas.

Nearly 60 percent of the schools and study-abroad groups surveyed in early September by The Forum on Education Abroad report decreased enrollment from a year ago, since the global economic crisis.

“Not only are we holding steady, we seem to be increasing for J-Term and spring semester,” said Sarah Stevenson, director of international programs.

In January 2009, 540 students studied abroad. This January 561 students are enrolled in study abroad programs, said Ann Hubbard, director of semester and year-long programs.

The trend seems to be different just down the street. At Macalester College, which typically sends more than 60 percent of its students abroad, study abroad enrollment this fall dropped 25 percent from the same time last year, said spokeswoman Amy Phenix.

For generations of travel-hungry college students, the semester abroad has become a defining part of undergraduate life, in which students live immersed for months in a new culture and often return fluent in a second language and with an appreciation of life outside the United States.

But the economic decline is causing many students to rethink their plans.