African American Presence Among Study Abroad Students Continues to Rise

Last week a JBHE post reported on students from Africa who were studying at U.S. colleges and universities. Now we report on students who went the other way across the Atlantic.

According to new data from the Institute of International Education, 325,339 American students studied at foreign institutions of higher education during the 2015-16 academic year. This was up 3.8 percent from a year earlier. A majority of Americans studying abroad attended universities in Europe.

Of all U.S. students studying abroad, 12,738, or 3.9 percent, attended universities in sub-Saharan Africa. The number of American students studying in sub-Saharan Africa increased by nearly 20 percent from the previous year. However, sub-Saharan African nations send nearly three times as many students to American universities as America sends to sub-Saharan African universities.

Among sub-Saharan African nations, South Africa was by far the most popular destination. In the 2015-16 academic year, 5,782 American students studied in South Africa. This was up more than 10 percent from the previous academic year. More than 45 percent of all U.S. citizens studying abroad in sub-Saharan African nations attended educational institutions in the Republic of South Africa.

Ghana ranked in second place, hosting 1,564 American students in the 2015-16 academic year. This is more than double the number from the previous academic year. Tanzania hosted 1,254 American students in the 2015-16 academic year. Kenya, and Uganda were the only other sub-Saharan African nations to host more than 500 American students.

While the data does not reveal what percentage of American students studying abroad in Africa are African Americans, we do know that of the 325,339 American students studying abroad in all areas of the globe during the 2015-16 academic year, about 5.9 percent, are African Americans. This was up from 5.6 percent in the previous academic year. A decade earlier in the 2005-06 academic year, African Americans were 3.5 percent of all American students who studied abroad.

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