(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – July 8, 2014) California Lutheran University has pledged to increase the number of undergraduate students who study abroad by 50 percent before the end of the decade as part of an international initiative.
Of the students who earned undergraduate degrees from CLU this year, 26 percent had studied abroad or participated in a travel seminar. By 2020, the university plans to increase that figure to 40 percent. Another 9 percent of students participate in non-credit international experiences such as service trips by the time they graduate.
CLU is one of more than 240 U.S. colleges and 50 other entities including the U.S. Department of State that have committed to the Institute of International Education’s Generation Study Abroad initiative to double the number of American students who study abroad by the end of the decade. The plan also calls for increasing the diversity of the students who study abroad, removing barriers to participation and ensuring quality programs.
According to the institute, about 10 percent of students who graduate with associate or bachelor’s degrees have studied abroad. In 2011-2012, 295,000 students studied abroad. Generation Study Abroad aims to increase participation so that the annual total will reach 600,000 students by the end of the decade. The institute has committed $2 million of its own funds to the initiative.
The number of CLU undergraduate students participating in study abroad annually has more than quadrupled in the last eight years. With partnerships that span the globe, the university now sends about 200 undergraduate students to more than 80 countries each year. A $1 million endowment for study abroad scholarships raised by the CLU Alumni Board has helped more students afford the experience. In the last three years, 127 students have received scholarships totaling more than $114,000. Scholarships ranging from $200 to $2,000 are awarded based on need and merit.
Study Abroad staff members are now working on additional fronts to expand participation with an emphasis on undergraduate participation in semester-long programs. They are sharing information with faculty so professors can dispel myths among their advisees that sometimes prevent students from participating. They are also working with faculty to find study abroad programs to fulfill requirements for each major. And they are examining the reasons that some students who initially express interest don’t end up studying abroad so they can address them.
In addition, growth is planned for the Study Abroad Center. Another full-time staff member will be hired. And construction of a new Student Union Building that will bring the Study Abroad Center and the Multicultural & International Programs Office together into an International Center is set to begin in December. This will provide the Study Abroad Center with more space and a more prominent location while creating a hub for foreign students and those preparing to study out of the country.