More Indians at U.S. Graduate Schools, But Fewer Overall

Rajika Bhandari, deputy vice president for research and evaluation at the Institute of International Education, says the fall in the rupee is “probably the largest factor” in the of Indian student enrollment overall in the U.S.

By Richard Springer, Staff Reporter

Two new studies on enrollment of international students in the U.S. show a continuing trend of fewer students from India attending U.S. colleges and universities overall, but a dramatic surge in students from that country enrolled at U.S. graduate schools.

A report issued Nov. 11 by the Institute of International Education found that while 819,644 foreign students studied in the U.S. in the school year that ended in May — up 7.2% from the previous year — the number of Indian students fell 3.5%.

Indian student enrollment went from 100,270 in the previous academic year to 96,754 in 2012/13.

It was the third consecutive decline in enrollment of students from India. Students from China retained the top spot, increasing 21.4% — from 194,029 to 235,598.

However, the Council of Graduate Schools recently issued a report showing that in the fall semester of 2013, graduate schools in the U.S. had a 40% jump in newly enrolled students from India, far surpassing 1% and 2% increases, respectively, in 2012 and 2011.

The enrollment of students from China has slowed at U.S. graduate schools. After seven consecutive years of double-digit growth, new Chinese student enrollment was up just 5% in the fall.

Rajika Bhandari, deputy vice president for research and evaluation at the Institute of International Education, told India-West Nov. 11 that the fall in the Indian rupee is “probably the largest factor” in the drop of Indian student enrollment in the U.S. reported in the IIE study.

She added that neighboring countries to India, such as Singapore, offer a viable alternative to U.S. study and are attracting more Indian students.

U.S. graduate schools, the Indian American researcher pointed out, also can offer scholarships and grants for gifted students for research study, but most Indian students who come to the U.S. for undergraduate education have to pay full costs.

In addition, IIE’s report, Bhandari pointed out, is more inclusive and covers the last academic year. It includes undergraduates, graduate students and non-degree study, while the Council of Graduate School study is the more recent fall enrollment and is limited to graduate schools.

“It is possible that the numbers from India may be picking up at the graduate level,” she said.

Overall, the U.S. “remains the leading destination for students from India who study outside of their own country,” IIE said.

Rahul Choudaha, director of research and strategy at World Education Services, a nonprofit education research group, told The Wall Street Journal that students coming to the U.S. to attend graduate schools are betting the U.S. graduate degrees will pay off in the long run.

“While the Indian economy was becoming less promising, the U.S. was becoming more promising,” he said. “The confluence of the two trends make studying [in the U.S] more appealing.”

Some graduate schools saw stunning increases in enrollment of Indian students in the fall.

First-time enrollment by Indian students rose 80% at the University at Buffalo, after a 25% gain last year. The school welcomed 683 new Indian students in its graduate programs and now has a total of 1,266 studying there.

Texas A&M reported a 30% increase in new Indian students.

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