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The Center for Global Education promotes international education to foster cross-cultural awareness, cooperation and understanding. Living and working effectively in a global society requires learning with an international perspective.

We promote this type of learning by collaborating with colleges, universities and other organizations around the world. Study Abroad Research Online
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Impact of Study Abroad on Retention and Success

The Center for Global Education at California State University, Dominguez Hills is involved in research focused on the impact of study abroad for U.S. college and university students. While most instruments and previous research have focused on international and intercultural learning, there is an increasing focus on the impact of study abroad for student retention and success towards their degree.

Following is a collection of statements and references related to "Research Findings" and "Special Programs" that provide additional insights to the impact of study abroad to student retention and success. If you are aware of additional research findings or special programs on your campus or at another college, university, or study abroad program, please Contact Us. We would appreciate hearing from you about special programs and findings for "at-risk" students and efforts to use study abroad as an intentional strategy to support "at-risk" student retention and success at your university or college.

Institution Retention & Success Data Source
Indiana University
  • Using the entering cohort from 1999, 95.3% of students who studied abroad graduated within 6 years as compared to 68.5% of students who did not study abroad.
  • Study abroad students earned higher grades and completed degrees in four years at a higher rate than their peers.
  • The average study abroad student earned a cumulative GPA of 3.21 compared to 3.12 for peers who didn't study abroad.
  • Study abroad students had a probably of .91 of completing a bachelor's degree in four years compared to .84 for peers.
St. Mary’s College (Notre Dame, Indiana)
  • In student cohorts from 2000-2004, students who studied abroad had four-year graduation rates of approximately 90%, while those who did not had rates of approximately 80%.
  • Students who studied abroad had higher GPAs at St. Mary’s, although they entered St. Mary’s with higher high school GPAs as well.
University of California at San Diego
  • Of the Fall 2002 freshman cohort, students who studied abroad were retained at a higher rate than their counterparts who did not.
  • Students who studied abroad also graduated at four, five, and six years at a rate higher than those did not participate in study abroad, which held constant across gender, ethnicity, major field of study, status as first or second generation college student, parental income, predicted first year GPA, SATI composite range, high school GPA and high school quintile, and first quarter UCSD GPA.
  • While the margin of difference varies among these variables, students who study abroad consistently do better than students who do not.
University of Delaware
  • A study on the outcomes of short-term education abroad programs on first-year students sought to answer how the study abroad experience is different for first-year students than for second-year students with respect to:
    • motivating factors for participation
    • self-reported learning while abroad
    • self-reported personal growth while abroad
    • intent to study abroad again
    • how to view students who study abroad as freshmen and again as sophomores.
  • Among all groups, at least 85% reported learning a moderate or great amount of new information about current political or social issues outside of the U.S., the people of another country, the history and culture of another country, the geography of another country, and living life as a foreigner.
  • Among all groups, at least 80% reported moderate to high growth in independence, cultural sophistication, awareness of international issues, overall maturity, self-confidence, and flexibility/adaptability.
  • Students report virtually the same amount of learning on first and second study abroad programs, so multiple programs are worthwhile.
University of Georgia (systemwide)
  • The University of Georgia System implemented the Georgia Learning Outcomes of Students Studying Abroad Research Initiative (GLOSSARI). The GLOSSARI methodology avoids inflating the impact of study abroad on graduation rates by only comparing students who have persisted to the same stages of their college careers. Thus a student who studied abroad following her junior year was compared only with other students who likewise had completed their junior years (but who chose not to study abroad). For some analyses, the GLOSSARI methodology also uses statistical controls to equate students on the basis of the semester just prior to the study abroad experience.
  • Students who studied abroad had a 17.8% higher 4-year graduation rate.
  • Students of color who studied abroad had a 17.9% higher 4-year graduation rate.
  • African-American students who studied abroad had a 31.2% higher four-year graduation rate.
  • African-Americans who studied abroad had 6-year graduation rates roughly the same as white students who studied abroad (84.4% vs. 88.6%).
  • GLOSSARI Project website
  • Redden, E. (2010, Jul. 13). Academic outcomes of study abroad. Inside Higher Ed.
  • Rubin, D. L., & Sutton, R. C. (2001). Assessing student learning outcomes from study abroad. International Educator, 10(2), 30-31.
  • Sutton, R. C., & Rubin, D. L. (2004). The GLOSSARI project: Initial findings from a system-wide research initiative on study abroad learning outcomes. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 10(Fall), 65-82.
  • Sutton, R. C., & Rubin, D. L. (2010, Jun.). Documenting the academic impact of study abroad: Final report of the GLOSSARI project. Presentation at the NAFSA Annual Conference, Kansas City, MO.
University of Minnesota (systemwide)
  • Of the Fall 1999 and Fall 2000 freshmen, over 85% of those who studied abroad graduated in five years, compared to only about 50% of those who did not study abroad.
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
  • Of Fall 2003 freshmen, 64.5% of those who studied abroad graduated by their 4th year, compared to 41.0% among non-study abroad students.
  • 33.3% of this cohort dropped out by the 4th year compared to only 6.0% of those who studied abroad.
University of San Diego
  • Historically USD has lost approximately 15% of students after freshman year and an additional 10% after sophomore year.
  • After implementing a Second Year Experience Abroad program, freshman to sophomore retention rate for the 2009 freshman cohort was 88%, the highest ever.
  • Sophomore to junior retention rate was 81%, also the highest ever.
  • We believe that the Second Year Experience Abroad Program initiative is one of the elements which has led to the increased retention and success rates.
  • Luchessi, J. & Espiritu, K. (2011). Personal Communication, University of San Diego, San Diego, California.
University of Texas
  • Of the 2002 freshman cohort, 60% of study abroad participants graduated in four years, compared to 45% of non-participants.
  • Graduation rates were also 20% higher among participants five and six years after admission.
University of Colorado Boulder
  • Juniors and seniors who study abroad have a graduation rate 10 percentage points higher than juniors and seniors who don’t study abroad.
Institution Program Details Source
Arcadia University
  • Arcadia University offers a First Year Study Abroad Experience that supports special outreach to honors students, who make up approximately 25% of all first-year study abroad program participants.
  • Although initially started to alleviate pressures of a larger freshman class, the program has become a regular opportunity for Arcadia students.
  • While the university is collecting additional data on the impact of their first year program on student retention and success, initial data points to participants having higher retention and success rates compared to students who do not participate.
  • According to the faculty director of the Honors program, Dr. William Meier, there is an effort to implement enrollment management strategies to include participants from diverse backgrounds, such as first-generation college students, which mirrors the student population at Arcadia University.
Institute for Study Abroad (IFSA) at Butler University
  • Butler University recognizes that first generation college students have some of the lowest rates of study abroad participation among college students in the U.S.
  • The University designed the Scholar Program for First Generation College Students to increase the participation of first generation students in study abroad.
  • The achievement-based scholarship program provides financial, academic and pre-professional support for students. The scholarship covers many upfront costs, provides students with special information, and includes a resume-building workshop to assist students among other services.
  • The program aims to reduce the challenges faced by first generation students and to ensure their time abroad translates to further successes once they have retuned to their home university.
  • The scholarship is available to students who take part in semester or yearlong programs.
Council for Opportunity in Education/TRIO Programs
  • The Council for Opportunity in Education believes international experiences are crucial to helping students understand themselves and the roles they can play in the development of their society and the world at large.
  • This belief is related to their charge of helping students to overcome class, social, academic and cultural barriers to higher education.
  • For the last 11 years, COE has developed and coordinated short-term, accredited study abroad programs in Europe and Latin America for low-income, first-generation students and students with disabilities who participate in the federal TRIO programs.
  • These experiences increase student engagement in their academic and career-related pursuits and make it more likely that they will be retained and succeed in college.
  • Hexter, H. (2011), Personal Communication. Council for Opportunity in Education/TRIO Programs, Washington D.C.
Indiana University
  • Indiana University has implemented a program titled the IU 21st Century Scholars Covenant Study Abroad Grant, which exemplifies how a large university can simultaneously recognize the positive effect of study abroad on students while being realistic about the financial obstacles that a significant number of students face.
  • This need-based aid program specifically serves students already receiving financial assistance as part of a university aid program.
  • The effects of financial assistance have been apparent.
Michigan State University
  • Michigan State University offers Freshman Seminars Abroad (FSA) programs designed for students who have recently graduated from high school and are entering their first-year of full-time study at the university.
  • Programs typically are between 12 and 18 days in length and take place between mid-July and mid-August.
  • Students may earn a total of two credits.
  • Students participate in pre-departure orientation sessions and follow-up sessions when they return to campus.
  • While there are program fees, the tuition rates are the same as for on-campus credits.
  • Scholarships are available for all FSA participants, as well as participants specifically for FSA participants who are also incoming Honors College students.
  • While abroad, students study an area of interest to them and participate in field experiences that link the learning from class to the program's location.
  • Students might also participate in extended field experiences or cultural events that introduce them to their host country.
  • Students learn linguistic and cultural strategies for coping in non-English-speaking environments and learn about the importance of language to the national culture and identity.
  • Locations for 2012 tentatively include China, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, and South Africa.
New York University (NYU)
  • New York University (NYU) offers an Incoming Liberal Studies and Global Liberal Studies Freshmen Abroad programs.
  • Freshmen who are Liberal studies or global liberal studies majors can complete their first-year degree requirements at one of NYU's centers in Florence, London, Paris or Shanghai.
  • The courses offered meet the same academic standards as those part of the Liberal Studies program in New York City, while providing international experience.
University of Arkansas-Little Rock
  • In Fall 2011, the University of Arkansas-Little Rock is offering a semester-long course that incorporates a 10-day Costa Rica study abroad component.
  • The program is specifically intended for entering full-time freshmen.
  • It is hoped that the course will increase student success by promoting development of study skills, goal setting, and time and stress management, among other goals.
University of Cincinnati
  • For a number of years the Department of Geography has had a short-term program that is part of the department’s First Year Experience program, which teaches critical skills for first-year students
  • The Kolodzik Business Scholars program in the Lindner College of Business offers elective courses that include a short travel component.
  • In 2012, freshman Kolodzik Business Scholars students will have the option of studying in Montreal, which is being offered in conjunction with the spring quarter Cultural Competency freshman honors course. It will include an academic component, business presentations on the cultural make-up and history of French Canada, experiential exercises geared towards exploring the multiculturalism of the city, and cultural sightseeing. Lectures will be conducted at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM).
  • Sophomore and older students Kolodzik Business Scholars will have the option of spending spring break 2012 in Brussels. It will include company visits and presentations, attending lectures at the Université Catholique de Louvain, and the opportunity to meet European students. The week ends with a trip to Paris, France.
University of Connecticut
  • The UConn Center for Academic Programs (CAP), which houses Student Support Services (SSS), was established in 1982.
  • Its mission is to increase higher education access for high potential students from underrepresented ethnic or economic backgrounds, and first-generation students.
  • The SSS Study Abroad Program is intended to attract study abroad participation of these students.
  • The design of the study abroad program and the customized advising and orientation practices take into consideration the unique needs and interests of low-income and first generation college students to increase their participation.
  • SSS provides financial, academic, and social support for students.
  • In 2001, the SSS program created a study abroad opportunity titled "Black Roots in Liverpool," a three-week study tour at the University of Liverpool for which students can receive college credit, and is designed specifically for SSS students.
  • The program facilitates the development of global citizenship.
  • Since its inception the program has taken 10-12 students annually to Liverpool.
  • Martinez, M. D., Ranjeet, B., & Marx, H. A. (2009). Creating study abroad opportunities for first-generation college students. In Lewin, R. (Ed.), The Handbook of Practice and Research in Study Abroad: Higher Education and the Quest for Global Citizenship.
University of San Diego
  • The University of San Diego has included study abroad programming as one of their strategies for retaining second year students.
  • The Second Year Experience Abroad program provides study abroad scholarships to Pell Grant recipients.
  • Because the university is able to guarantee scholarships to all Pell Grant recipients who participate in this program, it is believed that it helps promote study abroad among this group of students as a potential opportunity, which otherwise would not have occurred.