Going Global: Students’ Opportunities and Choices

Published in:

A National Symposium

November 22–23, 2013

University of Miami
Miami, Florida


Over 82 thousand international students study annually in universities and colleges in New York State, ranking it second in the country for hosting international students (Institute of International Education, 2012A). These students not only contributed approximately 2.5 billion dollars in economic impact to the state economy but increased the level of diversity and cultural exchange taking place on college campuses throughout the state. The number of students enrolling in study abroad programs offered by New York state colleges and universities amounts to only one third of the total number of international students, or approximately 24 thousand.

SUNY’s 64 state institutions offer a wide range of study abroad programs for their students from short summer and inter-session programs to full year study-abroad and exchanges across the globe. These programs in general allow students to earn anywhere from three to fifteen credits per term of study that can be applied towards their graduation requirements. While some institutions, particularly the community colleges (34 institutions) and the colleges of technology (7) may have a limited range of programs emanating from their own campuses, all SUNY students can take advantage of any program available from any SUNY campus. Thus, students have a great range of choices available to them at costs generally equivalent to what they would pay to be enrolled on their home campus plus travel expenses to and from the U.S. to the choice destination.

In its most recent strategic plan, SUNY has made international education and internationalization of the system a priority. As a state institution, SUNY institutions have limited control over tuition and other charges that students must pay, and is subject to the vagaries of the political process in funding both individual campuses and the system. International and out of state student tuition rates are double the in-state rates (all other charges and fees are the same). Thus internationalization is one mechanism to enhance revenue streams for individual campuses and system-wide.

The goal of internationalization though is far more than just a means to increase institutional revenues. SUNY’s notion of internationalization calls for enhancing student access to study abroad programs as a means to enhance the global competence of its graduates. This would not only provide graduates with more marketable skills, but also better fulfill SUNY’s mission in building a globally competitive workforce to meet the needs of the state’s and region’s employers including multinational and global firms.

The rest of this paper is organized as follows. The next section presents a review of some of the recent literature on internationalization and study abroad by American students. Following that is an analysis of some of the current trends in study abroad including a profile of the average student that studies abroad. Section 4 presents an analysis of SUNY efforts at internationalization and especially study abroad. The conclusions of this study are then presented.


A wide range of factors affect a student’s decision to study abroad. These include concerns such as program cost, study abroad location options, time of year, application to a particular program, and cost. Recent research by de Jong, Schnusenberg and Goel (2010) finds that two important factors for students considering short-term study abroad programs are the faculty member overseeing or leading the program, and academic/cultural issues. Their study is based upon the analysis of survey of results of business students’ willingness to participate in study-abroad courses.

Beine, Noel and Ragot (2012) focus their attention on international students’ choices of location for study in host countries, in particular, 13 OECD countries. They find that international students choose host institutions on the basis of network effects (student networks), institutional quality, and cost factors.

Salisbury, Paulsen and Pascarella (2011; 2010) in a series of papers focus their analysis on the groups of students that do participate in study abroad programs. In particular, they are concerned with the persisting gap between female and male students, who study abroad at a rate of almost 2 to 1 (female to male), and the difference in participation rates between white students and minority students. Their findings in both papers suggest that there are significant differences between groups of students from socio-economic backgrounds, to the acquisition of human and financial capital, and cultural experiences that affect the decision to study abroad. In the case of gender differences in study abroad, they also find that curriculum did affect study abroad choices and that women attending liberal arts colleges were much more likely to study abroad than women at other types of institutions.

Over the last decade, AACSB has demonstrated a strong interest in internationalizing business education and study abroad programs are an important facet of this concern as evidenced by Lashebrooke et al’s (2001) roundtable report on study abroad programs. This roundtable looked at a range of study abroad concerns with an overall emphasis towards broadening and expanding the business school experience for students. Many of the studies emanating from business faculty relate directly back to this concern such as Mckenzie, Lopez and Bowes (2010) who focus on how to expand and market study abroad programs to students within the business curriculum. Kuzma, Kuzma and Thiewes’ (2012) study follows in the same vein, which looks at students’ perceptions of study abroad opportunities. Their study finds that there are differences between business majors (management, finance, accounting, marketing, etc.) view of optimal length of stay for study abroad ranging from as few as two weeks to eight weeks, with an expected cost of approximately $3500.

Bakalis and Joiner (2004) evaluate Australian university students’ willingness to participate in international programs. Similar to the other studies already discussed, they use survey data to assess the factors that influence study abroad decisions by students. Their primary finding is that students with high degrees of openness and a high tolerance for ambiguity are more likely to take advantage of study abroad opportunities than other students (p. 290).

Kim (1998) in a study of how international study abroad impacts the importing country (home country of foreign students), suggests that study abroad can have an important impact on the development and growth of human capital. While Kim’s study is focused on a developing-developed world dichotomy, the reverse is also true. U.S. students studying abroad will likely have developed greater human capital skills and cultural capital than their peers that stayed at home. This idea underlies much of the resulting studies previously discussed, and especially when education is placed within the much larger framework of an ever expanding globalization of economic activity.

Campus programs

SUNY offers a wide range of programs and study abroad options to its students. While some campuses may have only a small number of their own study abroad programs, students from any SUNY campus are eligible to participate in a study abroad program offered through another campus – all at the comparable costs that a student would face at their home campus.

SUNY’s (2013) study abroad guide lists semester and year-long programs in over 59 different countries across the globe including programs in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, and North America. Additionally there are over 55 short-term programs available for SUNY students to take advantage of.

SUNY’s handbook on international programs indicates that costs for these programs are generally comparable to the costs of studying on campus. Thus for most in-state students, the cost of a year of studying abroad, exclusive of travel expenses and sundry expenses for tourist related activities would not total more than approximately $17,000 – the cost of in-state tuition, on-campus housing and meal plan. Additionally, since students participating in sister institution programs would register and pay for these programs through their own home campuses, they would be able to maintain all of their campus residency requirements for credits earned even while studying abroad, and apply whatever financial aid they receive to the study abroad program costs.

SUNY students and participation in Study Abroad

While specific campus demographic data for SUNY institutions was not readily available, data collected from the National Center for Education Statistics is indicative of a broad range of students with different backgrounds and ability to participate in study-abroad opportunities. Out of all students attending public universities and colleges, just under 50 percent come from families earning less than $65 thousand annually. While there is no specific data available to ascertain the number of students that work full or part time while attending college, this number is likely higher among this group of students than for students from families with higher incomes.

Anecdotal evidence from Farmingdale for example, suggests that as much as 60 percent of the student body works either full or part time in order to cover some portion of their college expenses. For these students especially, it may be difficult for them to participate in study abroad programs. Without even accounting for barriers that may exist regarding foreign language skills and curricular concerns (students enrolled in technical programs such as engineering and the sciences) that may limit many students ability to effectively participate in these programs, the loss of income that a student may incur during a particular period of study abroad may stand as a barrier to participation.

SUNY’s own internal documents indicate that out of over 450 thousand students attending university centers, university campuses, technology and specialized colleges, and the community colleges, only a small number of students took advantage of these international programs. In 2011, only 4,577 SUNY students took advantage of SUNY sponsored international programs (Dunnet, Leventhal, and Sillner 2011). This amounts to approximately 1 percent of SUNY’s total student population participating in international programs and raises the question of how to increase this participation rate.


International study and study-abroad is of increasing importance for today’s college student. Based upon the growing body of literature, international study not only better equips graduates to compete in the labor market, but equips them with a wide range of skills and experience that they will need in the global marketplace. Only a small percentage of SUNY students take advantage of these opportunities. In order to better serve the state and equip its residents with the requisite skills that are needed to retain existing industries and attract new industries, it will be necessary to find ways to increase this participation in the future.


Bakalis, Steve and Therese A. Joiner. 2004. “Participation in tertiary study abroad programs: The role of personality.” The International Journal of Educational Management 18(4/5): 286- 291.

Beine, Michael, Roman Noel and Lionel Ragot. 2012. “The determinants of international mobility of students.” CESifo Working Paper No. 3848. Found at http://www.cesifo­-group.de/ifoHome/publications/working-papers/CESifoWP/CESifoWPdetails?wp_id=18581959.

de Jong, Pieter, Oliver Schnusenberg and Lakshmi Goel. 2010. “Marketing study abroad programs effectively: what do American business students think?” Journal of International Education in Business 3(1/2): 34-52.

Dunnett, Stephen C., Mitch Leventhal and Bruce Sillner. 2011. SUNY and the World: Toward Comprehensive Internationalization. White paper by the SUNY and the World Innovation Team.

Institute of International Education (2012A). Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange. Fact sheet retrieved from www.iie.org/opendoors.

Institute of International Education. (2012B). “Profile of U.S. Study Abroad Students, 2000/01-2010/11.” Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. Retrieved from www.iie.org/opendoors.

Kim, Jinyoung. 1998. “Economic analysis of foreign education and students abroad.” Journal of Development Economics 56: 337-365.

Kuzma, Ann T., John R. Kuzma and Harold F. Thiewes. 2012. Contrasting student attitudes toward study abroad programs among college of business majors.” American Journal of Business Education 5(4): 457-464.

Lashbrooke, Elvin C., G. Tomas M. Holt, S. Tamir Cavusgil, Attila Yaprak and Gary A. Knight. 2002. Study abroad programs in business schools: Issues and Recommendations by leading educators.” Report of the Michigan State University Center for International Business and Research 2001 Roundtable on Study Abroad Programs in Business Schools, found at: ciber.msu.edu/research/books/studyabroadroundtablebooklet.pdf

McKenzie, Russell, Tará Lopez and David Bowes. 2010. “Providing International Opportunities For Business Students: A Guide to planning a short-term study abroad program at regional and small universities.” American Journal of Business Education 3(8): 59-65.

Salisbury, Mark H., Michael B. Paulsen and Ernest T. Pascarella. 2010. “To see the world or stay at home: applying an integrated student choice model to explore the gender gap in the intent to study abroad.” Research in Higher Education 51: 615-640.

Salisbury, Mark H., Michael B. Paulsen and Ernest T. Pascarella. 2011. “Why do all study abroad students look alike? Applying an integrated student choice model to explore the differences in factors that influence white and minority students’ intent to study abroad.” Research in Higher Education 52: 123-150.

SUNY. 2012. The Power of SUNY Report Card: Report Card Metric Definitions; A Competitive SUNY. www.suny.edu/powerofsuny/reportcard/moreinfo/files/SUNY%20Report%20Card%20Metrics­%20Definitions.pdf

SUNY. 2013. 2013 Study Abroad Guide. SUNY Global website, retrieved from www.global.suny.edu/oip/files/StudyAbroadGuide2013.pdf

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Spring 2014: Reinventing Liberal Education