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Open Doors: Indian students in US colleges up sharply by 25 percent

Indian students in the US grow to 165,918 in the 2015-2016 academic year, contributing more than $5.5 billion to the US economy.
BY Uttara Choudhury |   15-11-2016

Applications to American colleges from international students has reached an all-time high, reaffirming the strength of US institutions in an increasingly competitive global education market. A wave of Chinese, Indian and Saudi Arabian students propelled the number of foreign students at US colleges by 7.1 percent, to over one million in the 2015-16 academic year, said the annual "Open Doors" report brought out on Monday by the Institute of International Education.

The number of Indian students studying in the US touched a record 165,918 in the 2015-2016 academic year, rising 24.9 percent from the previous year and contributing over $5.5 billion to the American economy.

The report arrived amid concerns among some US schools that President-elect Donald trump's mercurial victory could be a wet blanket. Trump ran on a platform of tightening US borders and a spate of racist attacks have rocked college campuses since the election. The "Open Doors" report does not mull on the post-election environment, but instead underscores ten straight years of robust growth in foreign student enrollment numbers on US college campuses.

“I think there will be a short-term chilling effect on international students coming here not unlike there was after 9/11,” Jason Lane, chairman of the Department of Education Policy and Leadership at the University at Albany-SUNY told "The Wall Street Journal."

China continues to send the largest number of students to the US at 328,547, up 8.1 percent over the 2014-15 academic year, while India is second at 165,918, up 24.9 percent in 2015-16 from 132,888 in the prior year.

"Higher education continues to be the bedrock of our people-to-people ties. More students from India studied in the United States than ever before — at all levels — and I am especially pleased to see the record back-to-back, year-on-year growth in student numbers," said US Ambassador Richard Verma in statement.

The Indian student expansion to 165,918 comes on the back of a 29.4 percent growth spurt the year before, and a 6.1 percent growth rate in 2014 after a three-year decline. Indian students in the US had actually fallen to 96,754 in the 2012-2013 academic year due to increased competition from other education markets like Canada, Britain, Australia, and Europe. However, Monday's "Open Doors" findings are a vindication, strongly buoyed by a stable rupee vis-a-vis the dollar and fewer students going to Britain.

Spike in Indian Students

"The rupee had earlier been severely devalued against the dollar and many Indian students were hit by that. But the more recent stabilization of the rupee against the dollar has helped Indian students who had put their plans on hold to come to the US," said Rajika Bhandari, report co-author and deputy vice president of research and evaluation at IIE.

US university career offices do a wonderful job of finding employment opportunities and paid internships for students. Additionally, in May this year, the Obama administration issued a rule expanding the period for which students in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) can work on Optional Practical Training (OPT) after graduation, from 29 to 36 months.

"The potential extension of OPT for up to a total of 36 months for the STEM fields probably encouraged a lot of Indian students in those fields to apply to come to the US. While the extension itself went into effect in May 2016, it is possible that students were optimistic it would come through and were making their plans accordingly,” added Bhandari.

“Lastly, the tightening of policies in the UK might have diverted some of the Indian students who would have studied there to the US instead,” said Bhandari.

Better access to funding from banks and a paucity of high-quality education institutions in India and China will ensure America's ability to dominate the global marketplace.

"I don’t think they can educate these students at home. They’re going to need what America has for generations. In higher education, people still trust Made in the USA," said Allan Goodman, president of the IIE.

Foreign Students Pay the Freight

Foreign students spent about $35 billion last year, according to the Institute of International Education. US colleges and universities have become increasingly dependent on that revenue. On an average, foreign and out of state students pay the full sticker price and wind up paying an extra $28,000to $30,000 a year and help US colleges plug the budget gaps caused by reductions in state funding. Public schools often charge international students two to three times what domestic students pay.

This is the University of Washington’s new math: 18 percent of its freshmen come from abroad, mostly from India and China. "Each pays tuition of $28,059, about three times as much as students from Washington State. And that, according to the dean of admissions, is how low-income Washingtonians — more than a quarter of the class — get a free ride," reported "The New York Times."

Most Attractive Colleges

The “Open Doors” report confirmed that within the US, 41 states saw increases in international students, with California (149,328 foreign students), New York (114,316) and Texas (82,184 foreign students) attracting the highest numbers. Among colleges, New York University (NYU) became the leading host university for international students, surpassing University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, which had been the leader for 12 years, according to the report. Arizona State University in Tempe enrolled 12,751 international students and rounded out the three top academic destinations to attract foreign students in 2015-16.

Most Popular Courses

The "Open Doors" survey found the most popular courses with international students were science, technology, engineering, mathematics, physical or life sciences, health professions, computer science, agriculture, business and management, and social studies.



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