Student Mobility

The growth of international student enrollment at American high schools, colleges, and universities, along with increased interest among American students in study abroad options, is adding a global dynamic to the work of college counseling and admission professionals. In 2016, approximately 5 million students enrolled in postsecondary education outside their country of citizenship. Worldwide, international student enrollment at institutions of higher education has more than quadrupled over the past three decades.

In an increasingly globalized society, international education plays an ever-important role in developing engaged and enlightened students and citizens. Policies that support student mobility – opportunities for American students to study in foreign countries and for international students to study in the United States – are consistent with NACAC’s support of equitable access to educational opportunity.

Over 1 million international students study at US colleges and universities each year, comprising just over 5% of total enrollment. However, according to the Institute of International Education, new international student enrollment declined nearly 10% between 2015-16 and 2017-18. This is likely due in part to policies – such as the travel ban, which NACAC strongly opposes – that make the US appear less welcoming to international students.

International students make meaningful academic and cultural contributions to our campuses and communities. Furthermore, according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators, international students contributed $41 billion and supported 458,290 jobs to the US economy during the 2018-2019 academic year.

The number of US students studying abroad for credit continues to grow. The Institute of International Education estimates that one in ten US undergraduate students study abroad at some point in their undergraduate careers. However, the demographics of students studying abroad are not reflective of those enrolled in higher education in the United States. White students and women students have historically studied abroad at significantly higher rates than non-white students and men, respectively. NACAC supports efforts such as the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act, which aims to increase the number and diversity of undergraduate students studying abroad annually to one million within ten years.

NACAC supports the following efforts to promote student mobility:

  • Ensuring ethical practice and fair treatment of all students, including international students
  • Increased international education funding as an investment in our shared, global future
  • Other policy issues relevant to the international student community, such as immigration and visa operations