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California Community College Student Outcomes Abroad Research Project


Outcomes Research

There have been several previous research studies that have documented the positive effects of study abroad on student learning outcomes. Below you will find data from the University of Minnesota, Indiana University, and the GLOSSARI project.

In a study recently completed by the University of Minnesota, data showed that of the Fall 1999 and Fall 2000 freshmen, only about 50% of those who did not study abroad graduated in five years, where over 85% of those who studied abroad graduated in five years.

Indiana University data shows 95.3% of students who study abroad (using the entering cohort from 1999) graduated within 6 years as compared to 68.5% for the students who did not study abroad. Additionally, students who participate in one or more overseas study courses by the end of their fourth year of college have significantly higher cumulative grade point averages than non-participants, even after accounting for prior academic achievement and college major. In comparison to their peers, students who participate in one or more overseas study courses by the end of their fourth year of college have a greater likelihood of graduating within four years. (Overseas Study at Indiana University Bloomington: Plans, Participation, and Outcomes Report - May 2009)

The GLOSSARI Project (Richard C. Sutton and Donald L. Rubin, principal investigators), supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education International Research and Studies Program, was a federally sponsored major research project involving nearly 20,000 study abroad students and a rigorously matched control group of comparable size. The survey data in Phase I (dealing with cognitive learning outcomes) came from 2,000 students at 11 institutions. The graduation rate and GPA analysis included 40,000+ students from all 35 institutions.

The investigators found that the evidence from the GLOSSARI project strongly indicates the academic value of study abroad, particularly for at-risk students who can benefit the most. At-risk students are often the least likely to study abroad. African-Americans are significantly under-represented in the study abroad student population, both in the GLOSSARI research project and nationally. This may stem from lack of information or effective advising about the academic benefits of studying abroad. Financial factors, however, can also play a role. The Georgia investigation found that for every $1000 in unmet financial need (as determined by FAFSA filings), students were 4% less likely to study abroad. The implications of this research reveal that universities must make renewed and concerted efforts to encourage students-of-color and those with lower-range academic records to participate in study abroad as a deliberate, intentional intervention strategy to produce academic success.

The GLOSSARI data reflecting the Georgia higher education system data reports several interesting findings. Students who study abroad have a 17.8% higher 4-year graduation rate. Students-of-color who study abroad have a 17.9% higher 4-year graduation rate. In particular, African-American students who study abroad have a 31.2% higher four-year graduation rate and African-Americans who study abroad achieve 6-year graduation rates that are roughly the same as white students who study abroad (84.4% vs. 88.6%). Additionally, students who study abroad have higher grade point averages in their subsequent and final semesters, with the improvement in GPAs most pronounced among students who entered colleges with relatively lower SAT scores and high-school grades (


  1. Short-term study abroad and intercultural sensitivity: A pilot study
    Anderson, P.H., Lawton, L., Rexeisen, R.J., & Hubbard, A.C.
    International Journal of Intercultural Relations, Vol. 30, No. 4, July 2006, 457-469
    Longitudinal studies that measure the impact of study abroad programs are essential to improving our understanding of the effectiveness of international education. The focus of the current research is on the development of cross-cultural sensitivity. Hammer and Bennett's [(2002). The Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) manual. Portland, OR: Intercultural Communication Institute)] Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) is used to assess of the extent to which a short-term, faculty-led study abroad program can affect the cross-cultural sensitivity of student learners. The IDI was administered before the students traveled abroad and then again 4 weeks later when they returned to the United States. Preliminary results suggest that short-term programs can have a positive impact on the overall development of cross-cultural sensitivity. Individual differences are noted and the paper provides some discussion of the impact of the study abroad program on specific subscales within the IDI instrument. The study concludes by highlighting areas of needed research.
  2. A Guide to Outcomes Assessment in Study Abroad.
    Bolen, M., Ed. (2007)
    Carlisle, PA: Forum on Education Abroad.
  3. More Is Better: The Impact of Study Abroad Program Duration
    Dwyer, M.M.
    Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, Vol. 10, Fall 2004, 151-163
    Conventional wisdom in the study abroad field has held that more is better; that is, the longer students study abroad the more significant the academic, cultural development and personal growth benefits that accrue. The standard assumption is that meaningful advancement in language learning and other academic disciplines using a culture-specific pedagogy requires at least a full year of study abroad. While the benefits of full-year study abroad are strongly embraced by study abroad professionals, there is a dearth of quantitative research supporting a correlation with positive outcomes. Among education abroad professionals, convictions about duration rank among the most deeply-held. This article presents a research that measures the impact of program duration on five learning outcomes: (1) student academic choices; (2) career development; (3) personal and social development; (4) foreign language commitment and use; and (5) intercultural competence and intercultural awareness. While it has been long believed that study abroad changes people's lives, little evidence exists to explain what kinds of tangible changes occur and for how long. This study shows that study abroad has a significant impact on students in the areas of continued language use, academic attainment measures, intercultural and personal development, and career choices. Most importantly, the study illustrates that this impact can be sustained over a period as long as 50 years.
  4. Why Are They Better Students when They Come Back? Determinants of Academic Focusing Gains in the Study Abroad Experience
    Hadis, B.
    Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, Vol. 11, August 2005
    International educators in general, and study abroad advisors in particular, have recognized for many years that United States college students returning from studying abroad show positive changes. According to their impressionistic perceptions, international educators often identify improvements in terms of concern about international affairs, appreciation of different cultures, maturation, self-awareness and independence. Much of the research literalture on the impact of study abroad on US college students coincides with those impressionistic perceptions and finds that participants in study abroad programs acquire global-mindedness, grow intellectually, and develop personally. When researchers find no evidence of gains on the part of study abroad students, they acknowledge that their samples are too small to detect statistical significance. Research has also identified various kinds of second language acquisition gains--especially in listening and comprehension abilities--for students who study abroad in non-English speaking countries. With few exceptions, academic impacts other than linguistic ones have not been dealt with extensively in the research literature on gains from studying abroad. Many faculty and study abroad advisors who chat with their students returning from study abroad experiences will recognize that one of the most noticeable changes in these students is a higher than average curiosity and interest in academic matters. As they become more interested in academic issues, participants are less often distracted by non-academic, age-related stimuli. Some educators refer to this process as a sign of maturation, and rightly so. The issue, though, is to find out whether (and how) studying abroad contributes to this process of academically-oriented maturation. This article explores the cluster of experiences that participants in study abroad go through--both during their sojourn abroad and immediately upon return--and how these experiences enhance shifts in their individual priorities. The author discusses to what extent, and why, some study abroad participants bring their academic endeavors to the forefront of their interests when they return to their home colleges. Since the experiences of study abroad program participants are many, eye opening, and quite complex, this article also explores the intricate and multiple determinations of the changes in the participants. With the help of multiple regression and path analyses the author lays out a model that charts those changes, their consequences, and mutual determinations.
  5. Study Abroad for Global Engagement: The Long-Term Impact of Mobility Experiences
    Paige, R.M., Fry, G.W., Stallman, E.M., Josic, J., & Jon, J.E.
    Intercultural Education, Vol. 20 suppl S1-2, 2009, 29-44
    This paper reports on the preliminary results of a research project - Beyond Immediate Impact: Study Abroad for Global Engagement (SAGE) - that examines the long-term impact of study abroad on various forms of global engagement. The study employs a retrospective tracer study and mixed methods research design. Survey results from 6,391 study abroad participants reveal that study abroad has had an impact on five dimensions of global engagement (civic engagement, knowledge production, philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, and voluntary simplicity) as well as on subsequent educational and career choices. 63 interviews also were conducted to provide more detailed life stories about the role of study abroad on global engagement, education, and career paths. Three of these case studies are presented. Data were also gathered concerning study abroad program characteristics and participant characteristics. In future analyses, the relationships among these variables will be examined.
  6. Assessing Intercultural Effectiveness Outcomes in a Year-long Study Abroad Program
    Pedersen, P.J.
    International Journal of Intercultural Relations, Vol. 34, 2010, 70-80
    As study abroad efforts take on increased importance in colleges and universities, it is vital that we use the resources of the academy to research the impact and effectiveness of these programs (Lederman, 2007). Action research assessing the efficacy of intercultural pedagogy using the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI, Hammer, 2007; Hammer & Bennett, 1998, 2002) was conducted in a year-long study abroad program to central England. Three groups were compared using IDI pre and post. Group 1 students (n = 16) were in a Psychology of Group Dynamics course which integrated intercultural effectiveness and diversity training pedagogy including cultural immersion, guided reflection, and intercultural coaching. Group 2 (n = 16) was students in the same study abroad experience who were not in the intervention. Group 3 (n = 13) was a control group of students who stayed home. Statistically significant difference was found from pre to post-IDI scores between students in Group 1 and the other wo groups. Students' change scores pre to post in Groups 2 and 3 were not statistically different. As Vande Berg indicates, to simply send students to a location abroad for academic study is not sufficient toward facilitating the larger goal of creating effective global citizenship (Lederman, 2007). Findings from this research lend empirical support for this assertion, adding that it is not enough to send students to study abroad without intentional pedagogy focused on outcomes of intercultural effectiveness.
  7. Study Abroad and Intercultural Development: A Longitudinal Study
    Rexeisen, R.J., Anderson, P.H., Lawton, L., & Hubbard, A.C.
    Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, Vol. 17, Fall 2008
  8. The GLOSSARI Project: Initial Findings from a System-Wide Research Initiative on Study Abroad Learning Outcomes
    Sutton, R.C., Rubin, D.L.
    Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, Vol. 10, Fall 2004, 65-82
    Higher education in general and study abroad programming in particular are hardly strangers to stringent demands for accountability. What is new to higher education and to study abroad is the demand for accountability in terms of measurable student learning outcomes. This article is a first report from a system-wide initiative to document learning outcomes accruing from participation in study abroad. It focuses on one element of that initiative, a comparison of several outcomes between study abroad participants and non-participants attending sixteen varied public institutions within a state university system. The authors describe and interpret the data they have collected in Phase I of a six-phase, multi-year University System of Georgia project that is annually collecting data from more than 4,000 students. The authors trace the growth of the assessment movement in higher education and point out that institutions often define success in study abroad through such things as increases in study abroad participation or through post-program surveys that attempt to measure student satisfaction with their study abroad experience. They argue that neither these nor other sorts of measures now commonly in use provide direct evidence either of students' curricular content knowledge gained abroad or the cognitive understanding that they are presumed to have acquired. This paper presents the first set of findings from Phase I.
  9. The Georgetown Consortium Project: Intervening in student learning abroad
    Vande Berg, M., Connor-Linton, J., & Paige, R. M.
    Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad (in press)
    Six years ago, Georgetown University's Office of International Programs, together with partner institutions, designed a large-scale, multi-year study of U.S. student learning abroad. The data support three broad conclusions with significant implications for study abroad policies and practices. This analysis concentrates for the most part on one conclusion, that is, the study revealed significant relationships between independence variables representing learner characteristics and program features and the intercultural and target language learning of students abroad. The relationships between student learning and certain independent variables support the argument that students learn most effectively abroad given proactive learning interventions. This study, in highlighting a number of learner characteristics and program component that are significantly associated with student learning abroad, has yielded two different types of findings: first, those that call attention to needs for improving student learning; and second, those that suggest interventions that address those needs. The study has identified two intercultural learning needs and suggested six interventions that might be implemented at home campuses prior to departure to increase intercultural learning abroad. It has also identified five intercultural needs that might be addressed abroad through the intervention of a well-trained cultural mentor who meets with students frequently and who designs and delivers those interventions within Sanford's challenge/support hypothesis.
  10. Exploring the Impact of Study Abroad on Students' Intercultural Communication Skills: Adaptability and Sensitivity
    Williams, T.R.
    Journal of Studies in International Education, Vol. 9, No. 4, Winter 2005, 356-371
    This study answers a need for outcome assessment in study abroad by exploring the intercultural communication skills of study abroad and on campus students. Through a pretest and posttest of two specific skills, intercultural adaptability and intercultural sensitivity, study abroad students were compared to students who stay on campus to measure their change (if any) during the course of the semester. Using the Cross-Cultural Adaptability Inventory and the Intercultural sensitivity Index, the two student groups individually assessed their strengths and weaknesses through a self-reported inventory at the beginning and end of the fall 2002 academic semester. Results confirmed the hypothesis that students who study abroad exhibit a greater change in intercultural communication skills after their semester abroad than students who stay on campus. Results also indicated that exposure to various cultures was the greatest predictor of intercultural communication skills.

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