Yale has seen nearly no change in the total number of students studying abroad during the academic year, likely due to students’ economic concerns and the growing popularity of summer study abroad programs, Study Abroad Director Karyn Jones said.

A total of 139 Yalies studied or are studying abroad during the 2008-’09 academic year, according to data issued by the Center for International Experience, the Yale in London program and the Peking University program. The figure represents a drop of 2 students compared to last year’s total, when 141 Yale students studied abroad. During the 2006-’07 academic year, 180 Yale students studied abroad.

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The number of Elis studying abroad this summer surged by exactly a third, up to 524 compared to 393 the previous summer and 236 during the summer of 2006.

Given the plateau in Yale students studying abroad, Jones said her office is now wondering whether this figure will always remain flat or whether outside factors prevented an increase in study abroad applications this year, she said.

“We don’t know if this is just where we’re going to stay or if there are other things deterring students from going abroad,” Jones said.

In a move that may encourage more Yale students to study abroad, the University is currently reexamining its policy toward awarding study abroad credit, Jones said.

Yale currently does not allow students who study abroad during the academic year to apply course credits from other programs that are not Yale-run. But a policy change that will likely come up for a vote by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences this semester would allow students to count credits from non-Yale summer programs as well.

If the vote passes, Jones said, she hopes the change can be applied to this coming summer and all subsequent terms.

Such a change would be welcome for a student like Paul Treadgold ’10, who is currently studying European politics and society in Denmark and spent this past summer studying in China. Treadgold said he had to forsake the two course credits he earned in China in order to apply the four credits he has earned in Denmark.

“I think that this really impedes more students from pursuing study abroad opportunities,” Treadgold said in an e-mail from Copenhagen.

Of the half dozen Yale students currently studying abroad interviewed for this article, three cited this same complaint.

Still, the policy may not change the issue that the economy may be a significant deterrent for some Yalies, said Wells Stewart ’10, who is currently studying Greek history and language in Athens. Paying for a year of Yale tuition and then spending a summer abroad can become too expensive, he said, leading students to pick just one or the other regardless of whether they would get credit for both.

While in past years, Yale’s level of participation in study abroad programs has not matched national trends — which reflect an increasing popularity in study abroad — this year Yale may not be bucking the trend. At least on some other campuses, small online surveys indicate that there is a “flattening out” of study abroad’s popularity this year, likely linked to the economic decline, said Peggy Blumenthal, executive vice president at the Institute for International Education.

She added that nationwide, there is a growing propensity to study abroad in less traditional destinations such as Central and South America, as well as India.

Yet for the majority of Yalies currently studying abroad, cost of living does not seem to be a major concern. Excluding the PKU program, the most popular countries among Yale students abroad are France, England, Spain and Denmark, which together serve as temporary homes to 42 percent of all Yale students studying abroad this academic year.

The PKU program has seen a surge in popularity this year, attracting 23 students compared to 14 last year. This rise was likely spurred by the enthusiasm of returning participants, who encouraged their peers to participate, Amy Weber, the PKU on-campus coordinator, said.

A gender gap persists among Yale students studying abroad, consistent with national trends. This year, 60 percent of Yale students studying abroad were women. A total of 83 women studied abroad, compared to 56 men, while last year, 99 women and 42 men studied abroad. All seven participants in the Yale in London program this year are female.

Of Yale students currently studying abroad during the current academic year, 24 are sophomores, an increase of one student compared to last year.