By Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty
With the number of international students enrolled in colleges and universities in the United States at a record high this year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is urging more American students to follow those students' lead and pack their backpacks for study in other countries.
Only 1% of American students enrolled in college study overseas. In a new YouTube video, Clinton is urging more to think about going international.
"To remain the leader in this ever-changing world, we have to push ourselves not just to think globally, but to get out there and study globally as well," Clinton says in the video.
Almost 723,000 international students are enrolled in higher education institutions in the United States, a 32% increase since the 2000 school year, according to a report by the Institute of International Education. The Commerce Department says those students contribute nearly $20 billion to the U.S. economy, placing higher education among the country's top service-sector exports.
Students from other countries spend money in the U.S. on tuition, room and board, books and supplies, transportation, health insurance and support for family members, the Commerce Department says, and almost 70% of those students' primary funding comes from sources outside the United States.
The biggest number of international students comes from China, with almost 158,000 students in 2010 - 18.5% of the total of international students..
Next is India with 104,000 students, followed by South Korea with approximately 73,000.
Where do they study? The top pick is the University of Southern California at Los Angeles. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign comes next, followed by New York University.
While the number of U.S. students enrolled abroad has more than doubled over the past decade, just 1% of American students enrolled in higher education at home make the choice to study abroad. Just 4% of Americans aged 18 to 24 even have a passport, according to the State Department.
"I am asking all American students to think about expanding your own worldview by studying in another country," Clinton says. "I hope the administrators of our American colleges and universities will support this study abroad experience."
This year 270,604 Americans are studying in higher education institutions in other countries, the State Department says, with the top country choices of the U.K., Italy, Spain, France and China. Destinations in Africa and the Middle East are growing in popularity.
"That 1% is not enough," Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Academic Exchanges Meghann Curtis tells CNN.
In 1990, Curtis says, just 60,000 Americans were studying abroad so the numbers have increased markedly. But today, she argues, it is more important than ever to have that experience: "For our geopolitical reality we need to be thinking about studying abroad all over the world, not just in Western Europe."
"A study-abroad program, whether it's a short term or a long-term program, is critical, particularly in the ever-globalizing world that we live in," she says. "For us to be learning about the world only from our desks, from our own home institutions here in the U.S., we're not getting the full picture."
"It's not just about being worldly, it's about being competitive. I don't think we can continue to be competitive if we're not getting out there."
The U.S. does have some of the best schools in the world, Curtis says, and the cost of studying abroad can sometimes be higher than at home. But financial aid programs are available.
Michigan State University, for example, has approximately 270 study-abroad programs, Curtis says, and many of them do not cost any more than courses at the university.
Studying abroad has other benefits, said Kathy Bellows, executive director of international programs at Georgetown University in Washington.
"The reason students consider study abroad at Georgetown is that it's probably one of the most unique, high-impact learning experiences that they can have," Bellows told CNN.
"Georgetown students come back from their study-abroad experiences and say, 'This is how I can take this experience and improve the world once I graduate.'"
Secretary Clinton's message was released for International Education Week.
"Study abroad can be one of the most rewarding experiences in a young person's life," Clinton says. When students return home "they bring new knowledge, new perspectives, and a deeper understanding of the world."