Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Education Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. R. Joseph Waddington

Second Advisor

Dr. Beth L. Goldstein


This three-study dissertation contributes to the research in the field of participation in education abroad, particularly as it relates to student profiles and academic outcomes. Through employing more robust methodologies across the three studies, this dissertation aims not only to understand what are the factors associated with education abroad participation and how these factors interplay with each other, but also to provide a less biased picture of the impact of participation in education abroad on postsecondary educational outcomes. The studies have implications for equitable and inclusive access to education abroad.

The first study begins with the question: who studies abroad? Using logistic regression and classification and regression tree, the first study examines the average effect of each independent variable on the likelihood of education abroad participation, and also captures the complex interactive effects among independent variables. The findings of this study provide implications for education abroad policy makers and practitioners to understand student level barriers to education abroad participation. For example, students who academically performed well are more likelyto study abroad,yet students with lower academic performance also benefit academically from study abroad. This suggests policy changes to encourage flexibility in academic eligibility requirements for enrollment in study abroad. The long-standing gap in the likelihood to participate in education abroad between male and female students is replicated in this study. This suggests the need to examine how each gender is socialized to enhance their educational experiences during college. Additionally, the findings of the first study inform the methodological matching process to balance education abroad and non-education abroad participants to reduce the selection bias for future research.

The purpose of the second and third studies is to examine the impact of participation in education abroad on college completion. To address the methodological challenges and limitations, both studies use propensity score matching (PSM) to reduce the selection bias—a threat to internal validity inherently existing within the nature of education abroad research—and to obtain samples of education abroad participants and non-participants who share a similar likelihood to participate in education abroad based on observed characteristics.

The second study used the findings from the first study to select a comparison group that shares similar likelihood to participate in education abroad to examine the effects of education abroad on graduation rates. Moreover, this study used PSM to explore how education duration and times of education abroad experiences impact graduation rates, which have not been studied in this way previously. Overall, education abroad participants were more likely to graduate within four years or six years. Students who studied abroad for less than one semester or one semester were more likely to graduate within four years and six years than students who did not study abroad. For different numbers of education abroad experiences, the results indicate students who had one education abroad experience were more likely to graduate within four years and six years than students who had no education abroad experience and students who had more than one education abroad experience.

Using two national datasets that were collected across multiple institutions, the third study first examines the association between both student- and institution-level factors and students’ likelihood to participate in education abroad. The findings of the first examination provide suggestions on what should be included in the PSM model in order to select a comparable untreated group to reduce the selection bias while assessing the effects of participation in education abroad on bachelor’s degree attainment. This study is unique in its attention to the participation and effects of education abroad by including both student- and institution-level characteristics while adopting PSM to reduce the selection bias that has existed in education abroad research. First, the results of this study confirmed that education abroad as one of the high-impact practices that enhances student success, measured as bachelor’s degree attainment. Second, by including a rich array of institutional-level variables from the IPEDS dataset, this study explores how various different institutional settings affect students’ participation in education abroad. For example, students from private not-for-profit 4-year institutions are more likely to study abroad than students from public and private for-profit institutions. Students from highly selective institutions have the highest likelihood to participate in education abroad. Whether the institutions accept advanced credits from high school is also a statistically significant predictor of participation in education abroad.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)