New Delhi/Hyderabad: The phenomenon of Indian students attending US universities of questionable repute may have its roots in the shifting demographic profile of Indians seeking educational opportunities overseas
Indians currently constitute the second largest group of international students in the US, next only to the Chinese. In the 2009-10 academic year, a total of 104,897 Indian students were studying in the US, or 15% of 690,923 international students in that country, according to the Open Doors report published by the Institute of International Education, a private non-governmental organization.
In the past, such students were generally restricted to India’s wealthy elite, which favoured expensive, prestigious Ivy League colleges and were able to pay upfront and in full, according to Naveen Chopra, who runs an education consulting company, The Chopras, based in New Delhi.
However, that demographic profile has undergone a shift. Today’s Indian students looking to study overseas range from the daughters and sons of businessmen who send their children to study overseas as much for “international exposure” as high-quality education, to the first generation of college-bound youth born to middle-class families that rely primarily on student loans.
The demand for international higher education is further exacerbated by increasing cut-offs at Indian universities and competition. In 2010, at least 204,000 applied to IIMs for less than 3,000 seats at the elite business schools. Similarly, around 485,000 students appeared for 9,600 seats at 15 IITs in 2010.
“For lower middle-class students, overseas education can be very expensive,” Chopra says. “Some parents might only have enough money for part of the duration, and expect the student would work to subsidize the rest.” Unfortunately, very few such work opportunities exist—at least not legally. That has driven some middle-class Indian students to look for alternative, higher paid, “informal, off-campus jobs prohibited under F-1 visa regulations” to fund studies, educational consultants and students say.
“Earlier, finding a part-time job used to be very easy,” says Narayanan Ramaswamy, executive director, education services, at KPMG. “But after the recession, unemployment has reached unprecedented levels and the local guys are competing for the same jobs.”