Study Abroad May Lead to Better GPA, Graduation Rates:
“In 2000, researchers began an ambitious effort to document the academic, researchers began an ambitious effort to document the academic outcomes outcomes of study abroad across the 35-institution University System of Georgia. Ten years later, they’ve found that students who study abroad have improved academic performance upon returning to their home campus, higher graduation rates, and improved knowledge of cultural practices and context compared to students in control groups. They’ve also found that studying abroad helps, rather than hinders, academic performance of at-risk students”
“They found that the four-year graduation rate was 49.6% for study abroad students, compared to 42.1% for students in the control group (and 24% for students in the University System of Georgia as a whole). Six-year rates were 88.7% for study abroad participants and 83.4% for students in the control group (and 49.3% system-wide). The effect held across various subgroups of students divided by gender, race and SAT score, but was particularly pronounced for certain groups — most dramatically, four-year graduation rates for African-Americans who’d studied abroad were 31% higher than for African-American students in the control group. Four-year graduation rates for other nonwhite students who’d studied abroad were 18% higher than for their peers in the control group. Nationally, nonwhite students remain underrepresented in study abroad — according to the latest data, from the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors survey, 81.8% of Americans studying abroad in 2007-8 were white.
The GLOSSARI Project found that for students who’d studied abroad, their mean cumulative GPA prior to going overseas was 3.24 and the mean cumulative GPA afterward was 3.30. For the control group over the same period, the mean GPA increased from 3.03 to 3.06. Researchers found a particularly pronounced effect of study abroad on academic performance among students who entered college with the lowest SAT scores. Among students who entered college with a combined SAT score of 800 (on the verbal and math sections), those who studied abroad ended up with a GPA of 3.21 compared to 3.14 for those students who stayed stateside. On the other extreme, for those students who entered college with a perfect SAT score of 1600, study abroad had no effect on their GPA, which on average was 3.25 regardless.
“The conventional wisdom is that students who are at risk should be discouraged from studying abroad altogether,” Rubin said. “But this suggests that study abroad can actually be an intervention to enhance the success for college students who are at-risk. Rather than derailing them, rather than diverting them, it actually focuses them.”
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