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Why India is Taking a Record Number of Seats in American Colleges

The stabilization of the Indian rupee, better access to funding from banks and brutal competition to get into the handful of world class institutions at home are fueling the U.S college rush from India.
BY Uttara Choudhury |   18-11-2015

If you are trying to gauge the strength of the rupee look no further than the number of Indian students walking through the portals of American colleges. Students from India in U.S. colleges shot up 29.4 percent in the academic year starting fall 2014 compared to a downturn in recent years. 

From 102,673 students enrolled in U.S. institutions in 2013-14, the number rose to 132,888 in 2014-15, showed data from the Institute of International Education’s annual Open Doors survey. 

“While students from China still far outnumber those from any other country, the real story this year is about the growth of students from India,” said Rajika Bhandari, report co-author and deputy vice president of research and evaluation at IIE. 

“What we’ve found is that Indian students coming to the U.S. increased by almost 30 percent over the prior year to reach a record high of almost 133,000 students in the U.S."

Indian students regard a U.S. degree as a badge of honor. But for many Indian parents, who partly or wholly fund the exercise, expense is the operative word. The rupee slumped to a record low of 68.80 per dollar in August 2013 and made it difficult for some Indian students to pursue their dreams. It is currently hovering at 66 after making gains against the dollar. 

“We know that Indian students have always been very attracted to the availability of excellent science and research facilities on U.S. campuses and also within U.S. industry,” said Bhandari, who cited the stabilization of the Indian rupee as a reason behind the uptick. 

“Students are finally beginning to recover from the steep devaluation of the rupee against the dollar some years ago. While the rupee still remains weak, the fluctuation has stabilized to some extent, therefore allowing more students to afford a U.S. education.” 

BrainGain Magazine sees better access to funding from banks, a lack of high quality higher education institutions in India and stiff competition for those that there are, contributing to the uptick in numbers. 

“I think it’s going to go up faster in the next few years. You’ll see that uptrend continue, I’d say for the next decade,” Harjiv Singh, founder and publisher of BrainGain Magazine told "The Wall Street Journal." 

The opportunity to work in the U.S. after studying is “one of the biggest draws,” for Indians, added Singh.

Foreign Students Pay the Freight


Nearly a million international students are studying at colleges across America. India is the second-largest country of origin for international students in the U.S. China sent the most students of any country — with 304,040 enrolling, an increase of 10.8 percent from a year earlier. 

The strong rise in students from India this year arrested a recent decline in their numbers on U.S. campuses. After peaking at nearly 105,000 in the 2009-2010 academic year, the Indian student population in the U.S. dropped to 96,754 in 2012-2013 as other destinations such as U.K, Canada, Australia, and Europe hawked their educational wares. 

However, America has reclaimed its spot as the gold standard for education and the international influx is likely to keep growing, in part because of the booming recruiting industry. U.S. universities are looking to other countries for students who pay the full sticker price to attend. On an average, foreign and out of state students wind up paying an extra $23,000 a year and help U.S. colleges plug the budget gaps caused by reductions in state funding. 

Here is a demystification of the University of Washington’s new math: 18 percent of its freshmen come from abroad, most from China and India. "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," said the paper. 

Texas, New York and California continue to have pulling power, hosting the most Indian students in 2014-2015. Of all the Indian students pursuing education in America 27,000 were from Andhra Pradesh, 25,000 from the Mumbai, and 11,000 from Delhi.

Most Popular Courses

The report ranked business and management, engineering, math and computer science, physical and life sciences and social studies as the most popular courses with international students. 

The report pointed out that 80 percent of all Indian students studying in the U.S. choose engineering, math, computer sciences and business.

American Students Eye India 

India has traditionally sent a large number of students to the U.S., but now even American students are taking the road less traveled and heading overseas to study in Asian universities in India and China as the two culturally-rich, booming Asian economies emerge as top global powers. 

Study in non-traditional Asian destinations is expanding rapidly, especially to countries like China and India where U.S students see potential career opportunities, said the report. 

U.S. students are travelling to India to gain credits, work in NGOs and even pick up a smattering of Hindi. In 2005, there were 1,157 students who travelled to India, while 4,583 students studied at Indian institutions for part of their course in 2014-2015. 

The top destination countries for U.S. students remained the same from last year —the United Kingdom, followed by Italy, Spain, and France. 

Uttara Choudhury is Editor, North America for TV 18’s Firstpost news site and a writer for Forbes India. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism in the University of Westminster, in London.



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