Open Doors 2021 Report Recap

Tania Crescencio, Communications Intern, 100,00 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund

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In celebration of International Education Week, the Institute of International Education (IIE) released the 2021 Open Doors Report on November 15, 2021.

The release of this year’s Open Doors Report is of particular importance as it captures the direct effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on international exchange. The report demonstrated a decrease both in the number of U.S. students studying abroad and in the number of international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities.

The report showed that 914,095 international students were hosted by the United States during the 2020/2021 academic year. This is a 15% decrease from the previous year. Furthermore, the total number of U.S. students studying abroad fell from 1,075,496 to 162,633 in 2019/2020, a decrease of 58% from the previous academic year.


The top three countries of origin for international students in the U.S. continue to be China, India, and South Korea, in that order. In the Western Hemisphere, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela remain on the list of the top 25 countries that sent students to the U.S.

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The number of U.S. students studying abroad also faced a significant decline of 53% during the 2019/20 academic year. Almost all regions experienced over a 50% decrease in U.S. study abroad, with the exception being the Middle East & North Africa and Oceania regions.

Despite this decrease, Europe continued to host more than half (58%) of U.S. students receiving academic credit at home. Over 59,000 students chose Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom, the top three study destinations, as their countries of choice. U.S. study abroad decreased in Latin America and the Caribbean by 55%, although countries such as Costa Rica, Mexico, Argentina, Ecuador, and Chile still hosted U.S. students.

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This year’s Open Doors Report reflects the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on international student exchanges. No one could have predicted the effects COVID-19 would have on the world, yet its impact was especially felt in international education.

Higher education institutions (HEIs) all over the world had to cut their programs short and bring students back home because countries were shutting down. Study abroad programs had to be innovative and start virtual classes.

Due to COVID-19, approximately 242 institutions offered online instruction, from which over 10,000 students received academic credit. Of the virtual learning experiences, 43% were remote internships and consultancies with global companies, 38% involved joint project collaboration, and 31% were video conferences.

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According to the IIE, after every outbreak in the past, international education exchanges continue with new life due to colleges and universities’ commitments to internationalization and study abroad programs. This is also true with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although numbers immediately dropped at the start of and during the pandemic, the rebound rate seems promising, and the numbers are growing for abroad programs. In a survey conducted by IIE in September and October 2021 to capture a snapshot of international student enrollment for the Fall 2021 semester, the majority of institutions reported an increase of 68% in new international student enrollment.

Through the difficult challenges that COVID brought, Partners’ 100,000 Strong in the Americas (100K) Innovation Fund remained dedicated to supporting abroad programs and educational exchanges throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

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The program continued to launch grant opportunities that fostered partnerships between the U.S. and Mexico, Central America, and the Dominican Republic; host several virtual workshops and webinars; and work closely with grant recipients to ensure the health and safety of student and faculty participants.

In October, the 100K Innovation Fund announced the 2021 U.S.-Brazil Innovation Fund Grant Competition, supported by the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Mission in Brazil, and Brazil’s National Service of Industrial Training (SENAI).

This competition invites HEIs in the U.S. and Brazil and SENAI Innovation Institutes to apply for a grant to support student exchange and training programs in various thematic areas within technology, the environment, human rights, public health, agriculture, business, and more. To learn more about the U.S.-Brazil competition, visit

For more information on the Open Doors 2021 report, visit To follow Partners’ activity in higher education, follow us at #100KStrongAmericas.