Rise in Americans Studying Abroad Increases Need for Money Transfer Services

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Shift Towards Experiential Learning

As the number of Americans studying abroad continues to grow, the types of programs they engage in are becoming more hands-on and culturally integrated.  According to the Institute of International Education (IIE) 2016 Open Doors Report, over 313,000 Americans received credit for overseas programs in 2014-15, a nearly 3 percent increase compared to the previous year and a threefold increase compared to twenty years ago.  And there’s plenty of room for more growth, considering that these students make up a tiny minority (less than 2 percent) of all Americans enrolled in postsecondary institutions in the US.

The University of Arizona (UA) is one of many US schools that have shifted their study abroad programs away from a tourist-like, academic approach towards a real-world, practical one.  Experiential programs include service learning, field work, and internships.  Liudmila Klimanova, organizer of the Arizona in Kazakhstan program stated, "We want students to see the landmarks, but also to interact with people to see how they live, and that's how we deliver cultural education right now. Kazakhstan is a bit atypical for an American student, but they learn so much by having this unusual experience."  By making international experiences more in-depth and meaningful, universities are providing their students with skills to solve global problems in a collaborative manner.

High Demand for Cultural Competence

Data continue to demonstrate the need for intercultural education as the world becomes increasingly connected.  Understanding others’ perspectives fosters cooperation and more effective problem solving.  It also leads to greater business success.  A survey of 800 US executives conducted by researchers at the Universities of Hawaii and Memphis shows that 40 percent of companies lose important international business opportunities because of culturally incompetent employees.  According to the researchers, “Results clearly call for a continuing need for international business education in the US, with increased emphasis on intercultural communication, foreign language skills and international experience.”

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Efforts to Increase Minority Participation

Given these benefits of studying abroad, American universities are making concerted efforts to boost participation among minority students.  Even though diversity has improved in recent years, students of color are still underrepresented within the study abroad population.  For example, in 2014-2015, African American or Black individuals made up almost 15 percent of US postsecondary enrollees but less than 6 percent of US students abroad.  The numbers for Hispanic/Latino Americans also show a significant discrepancy:  about 17 percent versus 9 percent.  

Reasons for lower study abroad participation among minorities include a lack of financial resources and inadequate exposure to study abroad opportunities, especially if they are the first in their families to attend college.  To help overcome these barriers, the Council on International Educational Exchange, in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, is providing undergrads at minority-serving institutions with full scholarships to attend international programs, as well as training for college administrators and faculty to better support these students.  UA Study Abroad offers awards of up to $8,000 per semester to high-need, high-achieving students, with priority given to first-generation college students.

Greater Need for Cheaper International Money Transfer Services

As more Americans study in foreign countries, and a growing proportion of them come from low-income families, there’s a greater need for cheaper ways to send money abroad.  When covering tuition, living, and travel expenses (read our guide on plannning for expenses), families don’t want to get gouged by unfavorable foreign exchange rates and excessive transfer fees.  Instead, they are relying on non-bank money transfer providers to ensure that more of their money actually ends up in the student’s hands.  Use our comparison tool to find the most cost-effective provider for your needs.

 

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