Study abroad column drew inaccurate conclusions

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Last week’s column titled “Study abroad not a panacea” suggested a variety of reasons why study abroad participation is not wholly responsible for the higher graduation rates of participants, which is true. However, the column draws some inaccurate conclusions that merit a response.

Contrary to the column’s suggestion, UT’s study abroad participants are not primarily from high socioeconomic backgrounds. Forty-one percent receive financial aid, only 4 percent less than the on-campus average, and UT awards close to $1 million in study abroad scholarships each year, much of it to students with need. While many participants do have high GPAs, the greatest differences in degree completion between participants and non-participants occur among students with lower GPAs, suggesting that study abroad could benefit academically at-risk students the most.

Although studying abroad does not increase the likelihood that a student will graduate in four years, it doesn’t cause delayed graduation either. In addition, participants are far more likely to graduate from UT compared to students who don’t participate. Academic and socioeconomic indicators were included in the study to account for the types of concerns raised in the column.

Research shows that a number of disparate college experiences positively predict graduation, including working on campus, involvement in student organizations, living on campus and, yes, study abroad. About 56 percent of our entering students plan to study abroad, but only 21 percent actually do so. With a university goal to achieve a four-year graduation rate of 70 percent, it is important to leverage every opportunity to attain this end.

Those who want to learn more are encouraged to attend an open presentation today at noon. The session will discuss patterns of study abroad participation at UT and clarify the findings of this research. More information, including a summary of findings, is available at: http://world.utexas.edu/abroad/faculty.

Heather Barclay Hamir | Director, UT Study Abroad