New Delhi: Indian students’ flow to the US for higher education rose 12.3% in 2016-17, a three-year low, amid concerns over changes in US immigration policy.
According to official data released on Monday, a total of 186,267 Indians were studying in the US universities in 2016-17. In 2015-16, the number had grown by 24.9% and in 2014-15 it had jumped by 29.4%.
Indian students accounted for 17.3% of the total foreign students in the US in 2016-17, contributing $6.54 billion to the US economy, according to the 2017 Open Doors data released by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in collaboration with the US department of state’s bureau of educational and cultural affairs.
As per Open Doors data, in 2016-17, 62,537 got the F1 Visa, down from 74,831 students in the previous year, a 16.43% decline.
An F1 visa is a non-immigrant visa for those looking to study in the US. One needs to make an F1 visa application to enter the US to attend a university or college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory, or language training programme.
Similarly, M1 visas for technical and vocational courses without work permits during the course duration have gone down by 17.41% to 503.
However, H1-B visas given to Indians grew by 5.62% in 2016-17 to 126,692. H1-B visa allows US employers to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations like information technology.
This indicates that while the cumulative student population has grown, the flow of fresh students has reported a negative growth.
Overall, fresh foreign students’ enrolment dropped around 10,000 or 3% to about 291,000. Overall, a cumulative 1.08 million foreign students were pursuing education in the US, the Open Doors data showed. Just not in India, the growth was subdued in China, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada as well.
Though Chinese students (350,755) account for nearly one-third of foreign students in the US, it grew in 2016-17 by 6.8%, an 11-year low. The number of Saudi students declined by 14% and the Brazilian students’ number dropped by 32%.
“Higher education leaders have been on alert for signs that the Trump administration’s efforts to ban travelers from certain majority-Muslim countries and heightened scrutiny of foreign visitors are deterring international students," the Washington Post said in a report Monday.
In New Delhi, Karl Adams, deputy cultural affairs officer at the US embassy, said that though he would not speculate on the reason for the lower numbers, the 12.3% increase in the number of Indian students in the US was certainly a great number and his country “welcomes" genuine Indian students.
“The rate of growth for India is the highest among the top 25 places of origin among international students in the US...but the rate of 12% growth was lower than the 25% growth in the previous year," it added.
As per the Open Doors data, of the total Indian students in the US, a majority are in graduate courses (104,899), followed by 57,132 pursing other practical training (OPT); while 21,977 were in undergraduate programs, 2,259 are in non-degree programs.
Among US states, California, New York and Texas are the top three destinations for Indian students.