According to recent statistics, US education institutions have experienced a 32 percent rise in the number of international students from India compared to a total international increase of nine percent.

The SEVIS by the Numbers, a quarterly report on international students studying in the US, published by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) states that there has been a “32 percent increase in students from India since 2014.”

According to a report by the Council of Graduate Schools, highlighted by the Wall Street Journal, the overall number of international student applicants for schools in the US has increased by 2 percent, the 10th year in a row that the country has seen significant growth. As applicants from China make a steady downturn, the number of students from India continues to escalate rapidly.

What exactly is driving the inflation of Indian student applicants within the US? The fact that it is home to some of the best colleges and universities in the world is of course a major pulling factor, but the fact that India’s own education system has been unable to cope with a rise in population, plus the increasing demand for highly skilled workers, has pushed many talented Indian students to institutions overseas.

According to Naveen Chopra, Chairman of The Chopras, an educational consultation group based in Delhi, the primary reason for the growth is economic. He says: “The US economy is growing now, and unemployment has fallen from 10% to 6%.

“Indian students believe the US has the best opportunities for work.”

The SEVIS by Numbers report acknowledges that 76 percent of all international students come from Asia, and that the Top 10 countries of citizenship for international students includes China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Mexico and Brazil.

According to the US Department of Commerce, International students spending in all 50 states contributed more than $27 billion to the US economy is 2013 alone.

Evan M Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, said that: “International education is crucial to building relationships between people and communities in the United States and around the world.

“It is through these relationships that together we can solve global challenges like climate change, the spread of pandemic disease, and combating violent extremism.

“We also need to expand access to international education for students from more diverse backgrounds, in more diverse locations of study, getting more diverse types of degrees.

Only by engaging multiple perspectives within our societies can we all reap the benefits of international education- increased global competence, self-awareness and resiliency, and the ability to compete in the 21st century economy.”

Not only does the influx of Indian students benefit the US, and the global economy, it also has the potential to significantly boost India’s by producing highly-skilled, specialised graduates who return to India to work, or otherwise make a significant contribution to the global marketplace.

At 18 percent, India’s college enrolment rate is not as strong as China’s, which stands at 26 percent, and according to the British Council, the majority of schools maintain an inferior quality of teaching, an archaic curriculum, a lack of innovation and socio-economic inequalities.

While China has placed considerable investment on domestic schools and infrastructure, India’s initiatives to develop the country’s foundational infrastructure, pledged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government, have failed to keep up with the country’s rapidly growing economy.

This year, the SEVIS report demonstrated that India and Vietnam had the highest increase of student applicants to US schools, at 31.9 percent and 25.9 percent when compared to SEVIS results from July 2014. SEVP said: “24% of all F&M students studying at schools in the state of Texas are from India, followed by 17% from China.”

The five US universities with the largest international student cohorts are the University of Southern California, New York University, Colombia University, the University of Illinois and Purdue University. With approximately 3, 00,000 students, China boasts the highest number of international applicants enrolled at school in the US. India comes in second, with 1, 50,000.

According to the report, 86 percent of students studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) courses were from Asia. Engineering had more international student applicants than any other subject, and 29 percent of that majority originated from India. At 81 percent, India had the highest number of international STEM students than anywhere else in the world.  

Earlier this year, a senior US envoy claimed that the number of Indian students visiting the USA has risen year after year, and the figures have been indicated by the rising number of visa applications processed by the American Embassy in India.

Thomas J Vajda, US Consul General for Mumbai, said: “Last year, the number of visa applications by students increased by more than 20 percent.

“There has been a particular increase in the number of students studying in the USA. There are 100,000 Indians studying in America and it is the second largest group after the Chinese.”

Vajda added that as the Indian economy continues to progress, more people will journey to America; a country that facilitates travel for business, investment, tourism and education.

He said: “For India, we issued almost 900,000 visas and in Mumbai alone it was 300,000 last year. So visa allocation last year was 20 percent more than the previous year. We have spent a hundred million dollars in India to create new facilities for visa services.”

According to Vajda, the US embassy in India receives 1,500 to 2,000 visa applications each day.

“Most of them are issued a ten-year visa. 65 percent of those getting H1JB visas are Indians.”

Image via Shutterstock.

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