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Education USA - Why is USA the Most Popular Education Destination?

BrainGain magazine met with Education USA advisors, Ms. Renuka Raja Rao, and Dr. Zafeena Suresh, to discuss why the USA is the first choice for most international students. This is the first of a two part article.
BY Skendha Singh |   23-09-2015

The USA is known as the Valhalla of higher education. Its globally recognized university brands, variety and flexibility of courses, opportunity for work, and the presence of multiple diasporas are hugely attractive factors.A large international student population bears testimony to the fact. Indian students, for example, account for approximately 11.8% of the total population of foreign students in the USA. This is the second largest international student population after China.

BrainGain Magazine wanted to better understand this megatrend. So we met with Ms. Renuka Raja Rao, Country Co-ordinator, Education USA (India), and Dr. Zafeena Suresh, Senior Education USA Adviser, New Delhi. They spoke to us about why more and more Indian students are flocking to the USA, what career choices they are making, lesser known options available to them, and practicalities they need to consider. Here is the first of a two part series.

On the CGS preliminary report – China’s share in the US Higher Education is decreasing while India has, for the third year in a row, posted double digit growths. What are the main drivers?
The US has emerged as an education magnet for the whole world. While some markets are undergrad heavy, [a] few are grad heavy. Most countries send undergrad students. India is one of the few which is preponderantly graduate.

There are socio-economic reasons. We are very protective of our kids. They in turn feel more confident after completing their graduate education.
[Also] the typical student going from India is a student with a four year degree. Most often it is an engineering degree because it’s the easiest transition to the US education system. The STEM fields are the main recipients of students from India. I think it’s more because of the flexible U.S. Education system. There are opportunities for Curricular Practical Training while studying in the US and Optional Practical Training on completion of the program of study.

Again, India is a young country. The average age in India is 23-24. We have a bulging youth population. Indian students are very fluent in English, which is a huge leg up when they’re going for graduate education. They’re technically savvy.
I think the push factors also matter. The fact that our educational infrastructure is not keeping up with the demand for quality education. So both the pull factors and push factors have a significant role to play.

There’s [also] not too much research happening in our country. Research means huge amounts of money, investment. Typically, the research in fields which [draw] students are all STEM. They need nuclear accelerator and other high tech equipment. Kids enjoy working with all these million dollar toys!

The number of international graduate students applying to humanities and business courses in the U.S. has decreased as per the report. Why do you think that is?
That’s very, very easy. Most funding for research goes into the STEM fields. [Universities] like to accept students only if they’re able to give them some kind of funding. Admission and financial aid often go hand in hand. So if they’re not able to support a PhD applicant, then, however well qualified the applicant is, they will not give admission.

For an M.A. in English Literature for instance, there’s much, much more competition for a single spot than there would be in, say, the STEM fields. The STEM fields are huge, extraordinarily well supported, and so there are opportunities for graduate assistantships, for different kinds of funding.

Our undergraduate degrees in the Social Sciences are all three year degrees. And in the U.S. they’re four year degrees. So, very often, in the U.S., they’re not considered the equivalent of an undergraduate degree just because of the duration of the program. However, students can overcome this by enrolling for course work for a year from recognized institutions.
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To be continued.


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