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Without a welcoming political environment in US, students have always the option of choosing the UK or Canada (Photo: iStock)
Without a welcoming political environment in US, students have always the option of choosing the UK or Canada (Photo: iStock)

Foreign students looking for warmer welcome in the US

The number of Indian students in US grew 29.4% in 2014-15. But the growth rate came down to 2.9% in 2018-19

NEW DELHI : Richa Dwivedi Saklani has a clear expectation from the new US administration. Instead of creating a negative sentiment, the federal government in Washington D.C. must give a clear message that it welcomes international students.

“In the past couple of years, Indians aspiring to study in US universities did feel confused because of the negative sentiments, the noises around immigration restrictions and visa issues. The new government in the US must give a clear message that it welcomes international students and professionals," said Saklani, head of study abroad consulting firm Inomi Learning in Gurugram.

“Some of my students were very clear. They said they shall take a call on going to US universities after November (presidential elections). Without a welcoming political environment, students have always the option of choosing the UK or Canada. The H-1B visa restrictions have caused a lot of negativity, though it is not directly related to university education. We have observed that demand for US education among international students has gone down to some extent in the recent past," she said.

Saklani’s views are clearly reflected in the data trend of foreign students flow to the US. The cumulative number of international students, excluding the other practical training (OPT) students, was at a four-year low in 2018-19. The cumulative number of enrolled international students was 872,214 against 891,330 in 2017-18 and 903,127 in 2016-17, according to official data of the US. Official data on international students is available till 2018-19.

Once the OPT students are put into the mix, you see US housing 1,095,299 foreign students in 2018-19, a negligible 0.05% more than 2017-18. OPT students are largely those who are working after their study under certain US rules.

Indians constituted 18% of the total population of foreign students in 2018-19 but their growth was very slow. The total number of Indian students in the US grew 29.4% in 2014-15 and 24.9% in 2015-16, but the growth rate came down to 2.9% in 2018-19.

Experts said the US cannot afford to ignore international students and more so at a time that its universities are struggling because of closures following the coronavirus outbreak. Top universities, including Ivy Leagues, are well placed, but tier two and tier three universities need foreign students for their growth and to offer subsidized education to American domestic students. Besides, US firms also need good human resource and Indians fit the bill well here.

According to government data, international students contributed more than $44 billion to the US economy in 2018-19. Of this, more than $8.1 billion was contributed by Indian students alone.

Indian Americans and experts argue that as education in the US is expensive, students, especially Indians, do look for return on investment.

“With the Biden administration you will see more generous student visa policy and also how they can stay in the US after their education," DC-based entrepreneur Sanjay Puri, who is also chairman of the US-India Political Action Committee, a national body representing Indian Americans, said in an email.

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