Student interest in studying abroad is apparently leveling off. After a huge increase for several years, it’s starting to settle down. According to an article by Beth McMurtrie in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The number of Americans who study abroad grew an anemic 1.3 percent in 2010-11, according to the latest “Open Doors” report by the Institute of International Education.

“Those numbers are not growing fast enough,” says Peggy Blumenthal, senior counsel at the institute. “We’re going to have to find other ways to internationalize the thinking of Americans if we’re not going to get them all abroad.”

According to the report, 273,996 students went abroad in the 2010 academic year. Europe remains the preferred region of study, drawing 55 percent of all students. But China has steadily inched up over the years and is now the fifth most popular destination, reflecting a growing interest in Asia’s leading economy. According to a separate survey by the institute, if those students traveling to China for service-learning projects, research, and other non-credit-bearing work were added in, the total number of students who traveled to China in 2011 climbed to 26,000.

The number of students studying abroad appears to have grown sharply between 1993, when the Institute of International Education began tracking the students and 2007. Study abroad pretty much flattened then.

Blumenthal may want the number to grow faster, but at this point there’s not much she can due. The lack of growth in students studying abroad is almost certainly due to the economy, which continues to sputter along after several years of recession.

Students are always less eager to study abroad when economic times are tough.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer