Elon University #1 in the nation for study abroad participation

For the 15th straight year, Elon earns a #1 ranking for study abroad from the Institute for International Education.

Elon ranks #1 in study abroad participation in the 2019 Open Doors ReportElon University ranks #1 among the nation’s doctoral universities in the percentage of students who study abroad. The top ranking is included in the Open Doors 2019 report by the Institute of International Education (IIE) released on Nov. 18. It is based on data from the 2017-18 academic year, measuring study abroad participation, international student enrollment and trends in both student and destination profiles at 659 colleges and universities.

This is Elon’s 15th straight year of #1 rankings in the IIE Open Doors reports. Previously, Elon earned a top ranking among master’s institutions. This year, Elon was reclassified as a doctoral-granting university and again earned a #1 ranking for study abroad participation and a #38 ranking for the total number of students who completed an international study experience.

Seventy-eight percent of Elon graduates have at least one study abroad experience, and annually more than 1,400 students spend a semester or Winter Term studying in more than 110 programs in more than 50 countries.

Dean of Global Education Woody Pelton said Elon’s debut at #1 among doctoral universities affirms Elon’s national leadership in international education.

“To me, it speaks to a campus-wide commitment to global engagement and the hard work and dedication of my colleagues in the Global Education Center, who with our many partners across campus and around the world develop innovative ways to provide access to international education,” Pelton said.

The top doctoral universities recognized by IIE for study abroad participation include the following:

  1. Elon University
  2. Pepperdine University
  3. University of Denver
  4. Wake Forest University
  5. University of San Diego
  6. Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  7. University of Notre Dame
  8. New York University
  9. Georgetown University
  10. George Fox University

The #1 ranking by IIE follows a #1 ranking for study abroad in the 2020 U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” guide. The Princeton Review also recognized Elon as a leader in study abroad, naming Elon’s study abroad program the #2 most popular in the nation. Elon has also been named a top producer of both Fulbright U.S. student awards and Peace Corps volunteers.


Elon is concluding the ten-year Elon Commitment strategic plan, which set a goal of achieving 100 percent access to a global engagement experience. Director of Global Engagement Rhonda Waller has led several initiatives to make global engagement possible for all students.

“Every day, I have the opportunity to help students participate in global engagement – students that might not otherwise have access to these transformative, high-impact experiences. That’s what motivates me through everything else – the chance to make international education an inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone,” Waller said.

Elon encourages participation in study abroad through scholarships for students who cannot afford the additional cost of international study, along with several innovative and targeted opportunities. For instance, Elon’s student-athletes study and compete abroad as a team, ensuring 100 percent of student-athletes study abroad. Likewise, performing arts students are encouraged to study as a cohort either on the Summer Liberal Arts, Music and Performing Arts program in Florence, or at the Theatre Academy London. Elon has also curated relationships for Engineering students, who can study at ABET-accredited programs in Australia, Egypt and France

It is no surprise that four out of five Elon students study abroad. According to Greg Zaiser, vice president for enrollment, study abroad is a primary draw for prospective students. “Overwhelmingly, when we ask audiences how many people were attracted to Elon because of study abroad, most hands go up,” Zaiser said. “Students frequently mention that while most colleges have study abroad, it is different at Elon because there are so many opportunities, and so many students actually participate.”

The annual Open Doors report is widely regarded as the standard measure of international education trends in student and destination profiles. The 2019 report shows a slight decline in study abroad overall, but shows an increase in participation by students of color and students with disabilities.