Elon University commencement 2019

Elon University seniors take part in commencement exercises on campus on May 24.

There was a little angst around Elon University earlier this year when The Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education promoted the school into the ranks of doctoral universities.

That's a big deal on the prestige meter, as doctoral universities are schools such as Harvard, Stanford, Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill. But from a college rankings standpoint, as Elon would be lumped in with the Ivys, elite private university with billion-dollar endowments and huge state universities that draw 80,000 to home football games.

Not to worry, though. When the U.S. News & World Report college rankings came out in September, Elon was in the top 100 of national universities. (It had been the top master's university in the South for the past six years; in this year's rankings, it was 84th among doctoral universities.)

Elon got more good rankings news Monday. From a news release:

"Elon University ranks #1 among the nation’s doctoral universities in the percentage of students who study abroad. The top ranking is included in the Open Doors 2019 report by the Institute of International Education ..."

Elon had held the top undergraduate participation rate among master's universities for the past 14 years, so I guess it wasn't a huge surprise that it would end up atop the doctoral category.

In the new Open Doors report, which covers the 2017-18 academic year, Elon had the highest study abroad participation rate among U.S. doctoral universities. IIE measures Elon's rate at 108.5 because it divides the number of study abroad students by number of graduates that year; Elon says 78 percent of its students study abroad before graduation. Elon also ranked 38th nationally among doctoral universities in the number of students (1,550) studying abroad. 

Elsewhere in the report, Wake Forest University (fourth) and Duke University (14th) also ranked high in participation rates  among doctoral universities. UNC-Chapel Hill had 2,416 study abroad students, good for 17th overall in number of students who took part in international study.

Four other N.C. schools showed up in the IIE rankings: Appalachian State (fourth in total students among master's universities), High Point University (22nd in total students among baccalaureate colleges), Davidson College (25th in total students and 27th in participation rate among baccalaureate colleges) and Queens University of Charlotte (28th in participation rate among master's universities).

The report also gives a detailed snapshot not only of U.S. students who study internationally but also of international students who come to the U.S. for college. Here are some random facts that seemed interesting to me; feel free to use them in upcoming holiday dinner and party conversation:

• The top five international study destinations for U.S. students in 2017-18 were the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France and Germany. Those five countries take in 40 percent of all U.S. study abroad students.

• In 2017-18, 341,751 U.S. students studied abroad. That's up 2.7 percent from the previous year.

• Sixteen percent of graduates of four-year schools in the U.S. study abroad during college. Nearly two-thirds study abroad during the summer or for eight weeks or less during the school year. Only a third spend an entire semester abroad.

• In 2018-19, nearly 1.1 million international students studied in U.S. colleges and universities and make up about 5.5 percent of all students enrolled. But there are some ominous signs: Total international enrollment grew by just 0.05 percent — the smallest increase in at least a decade. And the number of new international students declined by nearly 1 percent from the year before. That's the third straight year that new enrollments have declined. New enrollments are down 10 percent from their peak in 2015-16.

• The top 5 countries sending students to U.S. colleges in 2018-19: China (33.7 percent of all international students), India (18.4 percent), South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada.

• The top 5 destination colleges for international students: New York University, University of Southern California, Northeastern University in Boston, Columbia University and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. No North Carolina schools are in the top 20.

Here's a fact sheet (click on 2019) if you want more numbers or want to check my math, and there's plenty more data here. And here's coverage from Inside Higher Ed (here and here) and the Chronicle of Higher Ed on the report's release. One of the Inside Higher Ed stories notes an interesting phenomenon: 

"The number of international undergraduate students declined by 2.4 percent, the number of international graduate students declined by 1.3 percent and the number of international nondegree students declined by 5 percent.

"Despite these drops, the total number of international students in the U.S. actually increased slightly, by 0.05 percent, due to a 9.6 percent increase in the number of international students participating in optional practical training, a program that allows international students to stay in the U.S. to work for up to three years after graduating while staying on their student visas."

Make of that what you will.

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