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How Indian students are creating a boom at US universities

WorldHow Indian students are creating a boom at US universities

Indian students are increasingly choosing to study at US universities, creating a boom for American Universities. The number of Indian students in the US has skyrocketed, with a staggering 35% increase in just one year. Currently, there are over 250,000 students from India at US universities.

A yearning for better career prospects drives this trend. Indian students believe that a US degree unlocks doors to higher-paying jobs and opportunities not readily available at home.

It is estimated that 1.5 million students are studying at universities elsewhere — an eightfold increase since 2012 — with no country attracting more than the US, according to the Associated Press.

Universities in Australia and the United Kingdom are also seeing surging interest, but none more than the US, where universities enrol nearly 269,000 students from India.

In fact, Canada, which had earlier been a favourite of Indian students because of the North American country’s easy permanent residency and citizenship norms, seems to have fallen out of favour recently.

Until August 2023, Canada stood among the top foreign study destinations for Indian students. However, a shift occurred from October to December 2023, when an 86% decline was seen in the issuance of study permits to Indian students.

However, another North American country has gained.

In 2023, a surge in global student enrolment marked a positive shift in US higher education, with over a million students worldwide choosing to study in the United States, reflecting a 12% increase from the previous year, according to the Associated Press.

This rise was significantly fuelled by Indian students, who showed an impressive increase of about 35% in 2022-23 in enrolment compared to the previous year, making India a top priority for undergraduate and graduate programmes, with a notable focus on Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities.

For India, it’s not good news because many students view universities as a way to find jobs in other countries. But for American Universities, it’s a positive thing.

With fewer students from China enroling, US universities are now looking to India as a new source of income for students paying full tuition fees.


India’s higher education system doesn’t have enough space either. With the population growing rapidly, getting into top Indian universities has become extremely competitive.

Some prestigious Indian universities now accept as few as 0.2% of applicants, whereas Harvard University accepts around 3%, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) around 4%, reported the Associated Press.

Lokesh Sangabattula, a student from India pursuing a Ph.D. in materials science at MIT, is one of many aiming to secure employment within the US. He explained to the Associated Press that there’s minimal demand for materials scientists in India, and at most, he could potentially become a professor.

Most of the Indian students are enroling in graduate programmes, mostly in science, mathematics, and engineering – fields that have experienced ongoing shortages of skilled workers in the US.

However, undergraduate enrolments are also increasing as India’s middle class grows.

One appealing aspect is the opportunity to work in the United States for up to three years after completing their studies, which is made possible by a programme called optional practical training provided by the US government.


Pranay Karkale, another student from India, is using years of savings and taking out $60,000 in student loans to pursue a master’s degree in the United States.

Despite this financial commitment, he considers himself fortunate.

He believed that obtaining a degree from Johns Hopkins University, a US university, would lead to better job opportunities and higher salaries compared to what he could expect in India.

“I don’t feel like I would have gotten the same level of education that I get here,” Karkale, 23, told the Associated Press.

For Karkale, staying in India never felt like an option.

For American universities, Indian colleges are now becoming a hot place to conduct college fairs, spending heavily on boosting their visibility.

They’re expanding their reach to smaller cities and towns, where interest in studying abroad is growing. However, for most young Indians, studying overseas is financially unattainable.

The Biden administration has eased visa regulations for foreign students studying in the US.

They can now apply for a visa up to a year before their academic term begins. However, entry is restricted to within 30 days of the programme start date.

International students are normally issued two categories of US visas – F and M.

The high cost of a US education is prohibitive for many, compounded by the reduced availability of student loans due to high default rates.

For those who can afford an education in the US, their student visa process is a roadblock. At the US embassy in New Delhi, student applicants are routinely turned away.

Daisy Cheema, 22, left the US embassy in New Delhi, disappointed after her visa interview for Westcliff University in California got rejected.

Despite weeks of preparation and hiring an agency, her visa was rejected without explanation. She had hoped to gain work experience in the US to support her family’s gas station in Punjab, India, using their savings.

As of May 30, 2023, the fees for US Student visas rose from $160 (Rs 13,300) to $185 (Rs 15,380).


The trend of American universities attracting more Indian students is evident at campuses such as the University of Texas, Dallas. Over the past four years, enrolment from China decreased from around 1,200 to 400, while enrolment from India increased from about 3,000 to 4,400, reported AP.

Like many US universities, Johns Hopkins University is strengthening its connections with India.

It has welcomed Indian diplomats to engage in discussions regarding collaboration in health and engineering fields.

Additionally, it is involved in a newly established task force by the Association of American Universities aimed at fostering exchanges with India.

Published By:

Girish Kumar Anshul

Published On:

Mar 11, 2024

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