October, 2002
Positive Attitudes Toward Global Education Undiminished by 9/11

AAC&U's newly released report, Greater Expectations: A New Vision for Learning as a Nation Goes to College, challenges higher education to ensure that all undergraduate students have the opportunity to learn about both the values and histories underlying U.S. democracy and global and cross-cultural issues. This is one of a series of key liberal education outcomes discussed in the report and it appears to be one widely supported by students and the general public.

Sponsored by the American Council on Education (ACE), a recent survey involved more than 3,000 students, faculty, and adults outside academe. It asked them a variety of questions about global education. ACE was able to compare these results with a survey done in 2000 on the same subject. The results show an increase of support among Americans to study foreign nations' issues, languages, and cultures since September 11.

The feared decrease in public support after September 11 never materialized, and the public's support for foreign language training is particularly evident.

Overall, support for study abroad remains strong, and is strongest in minority populations, and among younger people, and men. Support for the idea of study abroad and hosting of international scholars also remains high, but the numbers are lower when these situations are applied personally, suggesting that individuals strongly believe in the importance of cultural exchange, but have reservations about security.

  • In 2000, 77 percent of the public supported a foreign language requirement in high school; 71 percent supported a college language requirement; and 77 percent supported an international course requirement in college. After September 11, these numbers changed little, but the intensity of support for international education increased in some areas. Eighty percent of respondents in the 2002 survey supported a high school language requirement, while 74 percent supported a college requirement. Support for international education remained unchanged.

  • In 2000, 36 percent of whites reported that they strongly support foreign language requirements in college, compared with 52 percent of minorities. In 2002, this number increased to 45 percent among whites and 63 percent among minorities.
  • Undergraduate interest in taking courses with international themes has risen sharply since September 11th. When asked to compare their interest to before the attacks more than one-third responded that they are more likely to take these types of classes now.

  • The public wants higher education to increase its role in educating the public about global issues and to do it better. Nearly 3 out of 4 respondents agreed that higher education has a responsibility to educate the public about international issues, but one in four respondents said their formal education did not equip them with sufficient understanding of international issues. Minority respondents were most emphatic about the responsibility of higher education to enhance the public's awareness.

  • Support for study abroad remains "somewhat conditional." More than 40 percent of respondents said they were less likely to encourage a family member to study abroad. This hesitancy is especially evident among respondents older than 45.
  • While minority respondents strongly support study abroad programs (90 percent of African American and 83 percent of Hispanics compared to 76 percent of whites) statistics show few actually do study abroad.


  • Eighty percent of 2002 respondents agreed that the presence of international students on U.S. campuses enriches the learning experience for American students.
  • Sixty percent of undergraduate students believe that all students should have a study abroad experience during their college careers.
  • The majority of those surveyed believe that their own education did not prepare them to fully understand international events.

  • Only 12 percent of faculty report that September 11 has made them less likely to advise students to study abroad.

  • The general public strongly supports study abroad in the abstract, but have reservations personally.
  • Minorities show strongest support for and interest in international education.


To view the executive summary of this report and to download PDF versions of the studies on which it is based, visit http://www.acenet.edu/programs/international/mapping/intl_summary2.cfm.

For information on other surveys related to study abroad, see AAC&U News (http://www.aacu.org/aacu_news/September01/facts_figures.htm).