Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Downturn Shifts Direction of Exchange Students in Oklahoma

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Downturn Shifts Direction of Exchange Students in Oklahoma

Article excerpt

The economic downturn means colleges across the country are sending fewer students abroad to study, according to a recent report, but increased funding and shorter programs have helped Oklahoma schools buck the trend.

The Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange reported that the number of students studying during the 2008-2009 academic year declined by about 1 percent from the previous year to 260,327 from 262,416 in 2007-2008. This is the first decrease in the 25 years the data has been tracked.

Colleges in Oklahoma, however, saw a slight increase in the number of students studying abroad. Schools sent 1,448 Oklahoma students to other countries to study during the 2008-2009 school year, up more than 3 percent from 1,404 in 2007-2008.

"I recognize times are every hard, but oddly enough, we are bucking that trend quite vigorously," said Jack Hobson, director of Education Abroad office at the University of Oklahoma.

The University of Oklahoma, which had a 10-percent increase in the number of students going abroad in the past year, began offering shorter programs to its students from the traditional yearlong and semester study abroad programs, Hobson said.

"That's been a very popular model," he said.

The programs, usually based out of the student's individual school, is led by faculty and usually lasts four to six weeks, adding structure and cutting down on expenses.

"They are creating college-specific programs, so advertising majors all go abroad with an advertising professor," Hobson said.

Gerry Auel, Study Abroad coordinator at Oklahoma State University, said short-term programs are popular because students can work and go abroad during the summer.

While western European countries remain the most popular countries for study abroad, students are also choosing less expensive countries. Four of the top five destinations - Great Britain, Italy, Spain and France - saw a decrease in students in 2008-2009, while the fifth country, China, saw a 4-percent increase, according to The Open Doors report.

Hobson said OU has been sending a large number of students to China and Chile, although he's not sure if it's because of the price points or because the university has placed an emphasis on those locations. …

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