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Group Wants to Double Number of US Students Abroad

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    Students traveling on the metro in Madrid, Spain.

    An international education institute is working to double the number of U.S. students studying abroad by 2019.

    To reach the goal, the Institute of International Education will focus on recruiting more low-income students and others who have not participated in high numbers. Already, 160 colleges and universities have committed to participate.

    The institute's campaign was being announced Monday.

    Hundreds of thousands more international students annually come to the United States to study than the U.S. sends abroad. About 10 percent of U.S. students participate in some sort of study abroad program before graduation, with private liberal arts colleges, in particular, having higher participation rates. But the rate is lower at many institutions. For example, many community colleges see less than 1 percent of students going abroad for study.

    The campaign, dubbed Generation Study Abroad, seeks to have 600,000 U.S. students studying abroad annually in five years in either credit or noncredit programs — compared with the 295,000 students who did so in the 2011-12 school year.

    Career enhancement is one of the main reasons it's important to get more students into such programs, said Daniel Obst, the institute's deputy vice president for international partnerships.

    The institute's 100th anniversary is in 2019. It has committed $2 million toward its goal and is raising money for a study-abroad fund. It also has other partners and is encouraging colleges and universities to look for ways to help students pay to study abroad, since cost is the largest barrier.

    Among the examples of what colleges and universities have pledged to do, according to the institute:

    —Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., has said it will encourage departments to introduce new minors in which students can earn most or all of their credits abroad, so they won't worry about losing a semester of work if they study in another country.

    —North Dakota State University in Fargo seeks to match campus demographics with those of students studying abroad by reaching out to students in underrepresented groups such as veterans, athletes and first-generation students.

    —The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater said it will establish an endowed study-abroad scholarship for students with physical, learning or other disabilities.