Open Doors 2020 Report Recap

Nora Grow, Education and Global Citizenship Intern


In celebration of International Education Week, the Institute of International Education (IIE) released the 2020 Open Doors Report on November 16, 2020.

This year’s Open Doors Report demonstrated a rise in the number of U.S. students studying abroad and a fall in the number of international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities. Once again, over 1 million international students reportedly studied in the United States from 2019 to 2020. This is a 1.8% decrease from the previous year, as the total fell from 1,095,299 to 1,075,496 students.  

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The top three countries of origin for international students in the U.S. are China, India, and South Korea, in that order. Several Latin American countries made the list of top 25 origin countries including Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela.

The number of U.S. students studying abroad increased by 1.6% during the 2018/2019 academic year to a total of 347,099 students. While Europe continued to host the majority of U.S. students, the number of students studying abroad in Latin America and the Caribbean continued to increase. Over 47,000 students, 13.8% of all U.S. students that studied abroad, chose Latin America and the Caribbean as their choice of destination. 

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There is an upward trend of U.S. students studying abroad in Latin American countries like Peru. Over the last twenty years, Peru went from hosting almost no U.S. students to hosting over four thousand last year. U.S. students in Peru now account for 1.2% of all U.S. study abroad students. This increase in students placed the country within the top 20 study abroad destinations for U.S. students.  

The Open Doors Report also acknowledged the efforts of higher education institutions to diversify study abroad participants. Over the past two decades, racial and ethnic diversity improved from 15% to 31%. However, it is still evident that universities and colleges must continue to work to make study abroad opportunities available and accessible to minority students.  

This year’s report does not reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on international student exchanges. However, as it is the 71st Open Doors Report, COVID-19 is the 12th pandemic in the history of this report’s publication. According to the IIE, after every outbreak in the past, international education exchange resumes with new life due to universities’ commitments to internationalization and study abroad programs.  

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Though the report does not include a full picture of the effects of COVID-19, researchers included a Fall 2020 Snapshot to give insight into international education this semester. Due to COVID-19, 99% of institutions offered online instruction. Additionally, there was a 16% decrease in international students studying at U.S. higher education institutions in Fall 2020. Of the institutions surveyed, 90% reported that over 40,000 international students deferred this semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Despite these dire effects, Partners of the Americas continues to support educational exchange throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly through the work of our 100,000 Strong in the Americas (100K) Innovation Fund. This initiative aims to increase student mobility across the Western Hemisphere by offering grants to higher education institutions that stimulate international partnerships and collaboration.  

The Innovation Fund launched two new competitions in the past year that had been previously postponed due to COVID-19 to ensure the health and safety of participants. The 2020 Mexico-U.S. Innovation Fund Competition launched in September 2020. This competition, supported by the Mary Street Jenkins Foundation, the Coca-Cola Mexico Foundation, and Sempra Energy, will promote academic exchange and training in Mexico and the United States. 

The U.S.-Colombia Grant Competition launched in October of this year and aims to promote academic exchange between the United States and Colombia, thanks to ICETEX and the U.S. Department of State (USDOS) through the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá.  

In December, the Innovation Fund will announce the winners of our 28th grant competition for higher education institutions in the U.S. and Mexico, sponsored by Fundación Gruma, Fundación Banorte, and USDOS. This competition supports education exchanges with a focus on economic and financial inclusion and agricultural sustainability to reduce inequalities. 

The 100K team will continue to work with higher education institutions in the face of COVID-19, with the health and safety of all participants in mind, to build institutional capacity, create dynamic training programs, and expand global education opportunities for students. 

For more information on the Open Doors 2020 report, visit To follow Partners’ activity in higher education, visit or follow the Innovation Fund at #100KStrongAmericas.