U.S. student flow to Costa Rica is measured by annual surveys

The Institute of International Education is pretty confident of its report that Costa Rica got 7,900 U.S. students to study here in the academic year 2011 to 2013.

A spokesperson for the institute said Thursday that the number comes from a survey that counts only those students who received academic credit from an accredited U.S. institution of higher education after they returned from their study abroad experience. So the entities being surveyed are not the students but the academic institutions that gave credit for the work abroad.

And the number probably is higher. Students who travel and take courses abroad without receiving academic credit are not reported in the institute’s survey nor are students who are enrolled overseas for degrees from non-U.S. institutions.

So students who, for example, take Spanish courses at the Universidad de Costa Rica are not counted unless they have an arrangement to transfer the credit to some U.S. college or university. Many public and private schools that offer Spanish courses here provide that option, but not all students take advantage of the possibility.

“So the 7,900 students who received credit at a U.S, institution for study in Costa Rica in 2011/12 went as part of their education at their home institution,” said the spokesperson. “They went for periods of anywhere from two weeks to a full year, with the trend being more toward short-term, an academic quarter, a January term, a summer term, etc., although some certainly could have gone for a semester or a year. Any amount of time for which their studies earned them academic credit.”

Although Spanish courses are popular, they are by no means the only reason students come here. There are many active programs in environment and ecology as well as government, medicine and human services.

The Institute of International Education has just announced an ambitious plan to double the number of U.S. students who study abroad over the next five years.

The project has the support of hundreds of U.S. academic institutions, and the institute itself has put in $2 million for scholarships.

For Costa Rica, the results could be lucrative because the country ranks eighth in the institute list of foreign lands that provide classes for U.S. students. That was the subject of a news story ThursdayHERE!

The institute survey showed that about 295,000 U.S. students studied abroad in the 2011 to 2012 academic year. These visiting students are large consumers of short-term property rentals, tours and adventure experiences. A new survey will be done in November, the institute said.

The institute maintains a Web site that lists available programs abroad.

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