The Big Dilemma For Indian Students: Is An Undergraduate University Education In The United States Worth It?


For several years, enrolling in a prestigious American university has remained a priority for many Indian high school students. Many believe that studying in the United States leads to the possibility of better employment options. A reputable American university is also an introduction to education with world-class faculty, state-of-the-art facilities, and coaching opportunities – enticingly.

No wonder that the number of Indian students visiting the United States for higher education has long seen strong growth. India is second behind China as the place of origin of students studying in the United States and the number of Indian students in the United States has doubled in the past ten years, according to the Open Doors 2017 report on data from international educational exchanges.

But a closer look at these numbers reveals that growth is slowly declining. The 2017 report says the number of Indians studying in the United States is only up 5.4% from a year ago. Growth had slowed down from the good 12.3% increase recorded in 2016-17.

Let’s talk about costs

What happened? The rising cost of attending U.S. universities as well as political uncertainty in the United States after the Trump administration came to power are the culprits, according to students, teachers, and educational advisers.

The United States lacks government standards or regulations for university tuition fees. As a result, the costs of attending a university in the country are ridiculously high.

In recent years, these costs have continued to escalate. According to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the cost of attending college has risen nearly eight times faster than salaries in the United States, with education costs rising 2.6% per year. For Indian parents, it can weigh even more when the rupee weakens against the dollar.

There are basically two types of American universities: state-funded public universities and private universities that rely heavily on tuition fees and private contributions. Private universities are therefore generally more expensive.

However, private universities are also more prestigious – America’s top 18 universities are all private, according to the US News Rankings.

Indian students mainly target these private colleges despite their higher costs. The costs are exorbitant in every way.

The average cost to attend a private university like, for example, Hampton University, Tuskegee University, and Louisiana Xavier University, is around 25 lakh rupees ($ 36,000), according to a report by News from the United States.

As you would expect, the more prestigious a university, the higher the cost. Typically, the cost of studying at one of the top 20 American universities such as Harvard, Yale or Princeton is around Rs 53 lakh, or $ 76,000, per year. Undergraduate degrees are usually obtained after four years. This would set a family back by around Rs 2.12 crore.

Costs to hell!

According to educational consultant Namrata Pandey, founder of La Mentoraa Consulting Services, US universities still dominate the preferences of Indian students despite significantly higher costs than their counterparts in the UK, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and the United States. Canada, among other popular destinations. .

Education in the United States

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, admissions to Indian institutes have become very competitive and depend on a single test, whether it is the CBSE board exam or an entrance exam. “If a student doesn’t do well on a particular exam on a particular day, their whole future can be ruined. It’s just simply unfair, ”Pandey said.

The skyrocketing thresholds for Indian universities such as the University of Delhi and the notoriously competitive Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) arouse a sense of dread among students who want to enroll in good universities. The “holistic” admission criteria adopted by American universities alleviate these fears and play a vital role in attracting Indian students.

“While Indian institutes only look at a screenshot of the student’s academic performance, American colleges want to see the entire film,” she said.

When examining applicants, US institutions tend to look at student grades and assessments from grade IX onwards and track a student’s performance over four years of school instead of focusing only on just one exam. in addition, they emphasize student participation in extracurricular activities and also consider engagement with communities in the form of volunteer work. For bright students struggling to achieve high marks, American colleges provide much-needed relief.

While colleges in other countries such as the UK, Canada, and Singapore remain popular choices, unlike the US, they still rely heavily on Class XII scores for admissions.

Second, most colleges in the United States offer academic flexibility and the ability to explore.

Councilor Pandey said most 17-18 year olds don’t know what they want to do for the rest of their lives because universities in India as well as places like the UK require a student to enroll in a private lesson and often it is very difficult to change course. “At most US colleges, students don’t have to declare their major until the end of their second year,” she said.

She also cited the lack of interdisciplinary educational opportunities as the reason for growing dissatisfaction with the Indian education system. “For an engineer who also wants to study music, India doesn’t offer a lot of options. In America, he will be able to pursue a double major in music and engineering. “

Political uncertainties: the visa problem

For many Indian students, an American university education is the gateway to finding a job, obtaining a visa, and finally settling in the United States.

But recent developments have created a shift in the political and social fabric of America. Since President Donald Trump came to power, anti-immigrant rhetoric has been on the rise, affecting both employment opportunities and visas available to Indian immigrants.

Stricter regulations for H1-B work visas which are only granted to highly qualified professionals are the main reason for this problem. The Migration Policy Institute also said visa denials skyrocketed to around 42% in 2018 for H-1B-dependent businesses, up from 4% in 2016. Optional Practical Training (OPT) processing delays have recently been seen to be overdue. criticized for affecting the summer internships and jobs of Indian college students in America.

A student who recently graduated from a prestigious American university said that obtaining work visas has become very difficult for those who want to work in the IT industry and has become even more difficult for those who want jobs in finance. Without these visas, students cannot be employed in the United States.

“These visas are only offered to students who manage to secure very competitive positions in the big three IT companies. And where do these companies mainly recruit from? Very competitive schools like Harvard and Yale, ”the student said on condition of anonymity.

The big question

So, is an American degree worth it? The answer to this question varies for each person and basically boils down to the end goal of college education coupled with the financial burden on a family.

For students who want to take advantage of the unique admission criteria of American colleges as well as their flexibility, an American college education is worth it. With the introduction of several academic opportunities, including the pursuit of advanced research as an undergraduate student as well as a series of extracurricular activities, an American college education focuses more on the practical application of education. . A variety of scholarships and financial aid opportunities made an American college education more affordable for particularly bright students who showed consistent academic performance and focus throughout high school.

“Strictly speaking in terms of education, America is unprecedented,” said Raghav Gupta, a freshman who completed his first year at prestigious Emory University in the United States. When asked if he would like to eventually settle in the United States, Gupta replied, “No, I would like to come back to India because I want to be a part of India’s growth story. “

For students like him, who go to the United States in search of an unprecedented education to take advantage of the many resources these universities offer, an American college education seems worthwhile because it helps them achieve their goals.

In contrast, for students wishing to build a life in America, the current administration is making it increasingly difficult to obtain jobs and work visas. For these students, countries like Canada and Hong Kong seem more attractive because they are more welcoming to immigrants and offer education at a fraction of the cost compared to the United States. Although those who wish to work in the IT industry are more likely to obtain visas and jobs in the United States, it is still a difficult process, with only the best students from the best universities obtaining them.


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