Indian students going to the US for higher education may have to brace for significantly higher out-of-pocket costs this year as some of them may be unable to get assistantships/scholarships for admissions this autumn semester.
The decision to temporarily stop registrations for Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), which are a prerequisite for getting admissions to most US universities, may lead to some students being unable to submit their last-minute test scores in time.
Since most of the assistantships (tutoring jobs at universities) and scholarships get awarded to eligible candidates on a first-come-first-serve basis, a delay in submitting test scores would mean that while bright students would still secure admission, they may lose out on scholarships and may have to pay a larger share of their tuition fees, which vary between $5,000 and $30,000 per year for a two-year Master’s course.
India is the single-largest source of international students to the US, according to the Institute of International Education. In 2005-06, the number of students going to the US dropped by 4.9%, even though Indian students made up 13.5% of all international students coming to the US.
It’s not clear at this stage whether students will defer their admission by a year in the hope for more funding, seek a larger amount of educational loans from banks in India or overseas, or instead seek to go to other countries such as the UK or Australia to pursue their Master’s courses.
India is the most significant contributor to the $13.5 billion that the US earns from international students. According to the US department of commerce, higher education is the country’s fifth-largest service sector export.
Manisha Mewada, a 26-year-old architecture graduate from Ahmedabad, says she and some of her friends have not been able to register and will only be able to take the GRE after 7 September. “I am trying to get funding but I think it is going to be difficult,” she says.
Then, there is also the question of how students will score on the new test since no training software or books for the new test are available till date. This means students will have little time to practise for the test before they attempt it.
“Given that the format to be introduced in September will be new, the average scores are likely to come down this year. This means that there might be a possibility of some students not getting funds,” says Gigeo Sakkarayas, director, Institute of Management Training and Placement, a Chennai headquartered education consultancy. “There is a lot of confusion. Students do not know if they will be able to take the tests in time to meet admission deadlines and they are not sure what the new format will be like,” says Sanjay Chaudhary, COO, IMS, a Mumbai-headquartered training institute with a pan-India presence.
A two-year Master’s in International and Public Affairs at Columbia University in New York costs $16,962 in tuition fees with average living expenses per year estimated at $10,000 per year. Thus, the total bill for just one year at Columbia would cost Rs11.8 lakh while the expenses over a two-year period would be close to Rs23.64 lakh, a fairly huge expenditure for most middle-class households.
According to Chaudhary, students who are considering pursuing Master’s courses abroad have evinced interest in looking at other destinations especially with the high-pitched marketing campaigns that many alternative destinations have launched in India. As a result, higher education destinations like the UK, Australia and New Zealand could stand to gain, he feels. Vishal Badani, director, International Learning Warehouse (ILW) - Overseas Education Consultants, says the UK is likely to benefit from the GRE issue.
Educational Testing Service (ETS), the institution that conducts this test across the globe, has been trying to minimize the disruptive impact of the tests not being conducted through all of August. “Individuals who have already applied for admission to graduate programmes, but who are now unable to register to take the GRE General Test in time, to meet admission deadlines are advised, to contact the Graduate School to which they have applied,” says David Payne, GRE executive director, ETS. “Graduate Schools are being informed to contact ETS regarding these applicants, and ETS will make every attempt to arrange for testing for applicants affected by this transition,” David adds.
The new GRE tests will be conducted in September. Registration for the revised GRE General Test begins on 1 July. The current GRE General Test will no longer be offered after 31 July 2007. Scores from these first administrations of the new GRE tests will be reported in early November after score scales have been established.