On my visit to the Dominican Republic this week, I had the opportunity to meet with more than a dozen future Dominican leaders -- all high school students, who were enrolled in an English immersion school in Santo Domingo. They spoke with depth and conviction about pressing matters in their country. Every one spoke of his or her desire to use their growing skills in English to study in U.S. universities.
That same day, I met with American college students who are taking college courses in the Dominican Republic. I asked why they'd chosen to study abroad and they shared what they'd learned, reflecting an impressive perspective and awareness about the region -- and the world at large. They, too, recognized that, by becoming bilingual, they would open doors for better futures.
Even as I had these encouraging conversations, an annual report on academic exchange released this week shows a disparity in the flow of students within the Americas. The number of international students coming to the United States rose six percent last year from 2010 levels, to a record high of 764,495. Those students not only diversify our campuses enriching the college experience for all -- they contribute $22.7 billion to the U.S. economy each year.
But conversely, the number of U.S. students venturing to study abroad last year rose only one percent. Although about 14 percent of American students will study abroad before they graduate, only one percent of those enrolled are studying abroad in any given year. Clearly, we must do more to increase the presence of our American students abroad -- not only to enrich their experiences of the world but to make them competitive global citizens of the future. A two-way flow is important. And in the Dominican Republic, I had a vibrant exchange with higher education officials and university presidents about some of the ways we can continue to create opportunities for exchanges in both directions.
The Department of State is building bridges to facilitate the flow of students between the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean. We're doing that to support President Obama's goal, 100,000 Strong in the Americas, to increase the number of students from the United States going to Latin America and the Caribbean, and from the region to the United States, to 100,000 each year in both directions.
The plan is not to do this by handing out scholarships, but by creating partnerships among parties who will benefit. So we are working with universities, the private sector, and governments throughout the region. We are fostering public-private partnerships that encourage companies to help build their own future work force by creating educational opportunities now. And we are working to make students aware of the advantages of exploring new horizons -- starting with their own hemisphere.
We can all do more, citizens, government, and private sector actors alike, to encourage the number of Americans opting to study abroad. We do this by supporting exchange programs and creating opportunities. But we can also do it simply by making the case. More and more companies are developing global perspectives and markets. They will tend to seek employees who understand the global markets, speak other languages, or have a familiarity and expertise working across borders with diverse partners. By going abroad, young Americans will increase their chances of succeeding in a global marketplace. Furthermore, they will help build an electorate that is more aware of the international connections, realities, and partnerships that are becoming the way of the 21st century. Increasingly, the bottom line and our mutual understanding with citizens around the world are becoming part of the same important equation.