The 2015 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange released last week found that students from India on US campuses increased by 29.4% to a record high of 132,888 in the 2014-15 academic year.
The last time India grew at a comparable rate (29.1) was in 2000-01 when the number of students from India exceeded 50,000. While China remains the top country of origin of international students in the US, increasing by 11% to 304,040, India’s growth rate outpaced China’s this year.
Dr. Rahul Choudaha, a New York-based expert on international students, attributes this rise to the fact that a majority of Indian students have got used to the new higher cost of education and at the same time the Indian economy is on an optimistic trend. “Indian students are value seekers and affordability of studying abroad has always been among their biggest barrier. For the last few years, the combination of recession and depreciating value of the rupee made it expensive and risky for many Indian students to study abroad and hence the numbers were stagnant,” said Dr. Choudaha.
He said that in addition to the macroeconomic external factors, the most critical turning point for the increase of Indian students in the US is the emergence of new “high-flier” students who have academic preparedness and financial resources.
“High-flier children born in the late ’90s to parents working in new-age industries such as IT, financial services and telecommunications will drive the growth at the undergraduate level. The parents of high-flier students are not only likely to be highly educated but also financially well-off. In contrast to high-fliers, the traditional segment of ‘strivers’ lacks financial resources and is usually concentrated in engineering-related master’s programs, which provide higher prospects of IT jobs and an opportunity to recover the investment,” he said.
Matthew K Asada, first secretary of the US embassy in India, while releasing the Open Doors Report, said that the stabilization of the rupee was seeing Indian families analyzing the cost of education in the US in a better way which was the reason for more Indian students going to study there. “The US economy is also doing well and in many cases, US universities are waiving the four-year graduate requirement for Indian undergrad students from reputed institutions, which is seeing more Indian students getting admissions and funding at graduate courses. There are also funding options available for international students for graduate, undergrad and Ph.D. courses,” Asada said.
He added that the availability of between 12 and 17 months of optional practical training when international students could remain in the US after their courses to gain work experience, also made education in the US very attractive for Indian students. Figures released by the US embassy also show a 25% increase in student visa approvals in India last year with 86,000 student visas issued in the last 12 months.
Other breakdowns of figures of Indian students in the US provided by Education USA show a growth of 39% in Indian students enrolled in graduate studies in the US at 85,055 in 2014-15 over the previous year; undergrad students increased 30% to 16,521. While 31.4% of students from India were enrolled in maths and computer education courses in 2014-15, 37.5% were studying engineering. The IIE report also shows Texas as the top host state for Indian students with 13.4% enrolled there – this is followed by California and New York at 11.2% each. “One out of every seven Indian students in the US is studying in Texas where major IT companies including Texas Instruments have large operations,” said Dr. Choudaha.