Indian students in the USA
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
In 1883, a young woman named Anandibai Joshi sailed from Calcutta to America to study medicine in Pennsylvania and returned to become the first woman doctor in India. Five years later, Sumantrao Vishnu Karmarkar from Ahmednagar arrived in Connecticut for divinity studies at Hartford Seminary, finishing up at Yale while his wife Gurubai Karmarkar went to the same women’s medical school that Joshi had attended. They are two of the earliest recorded Indian students in the United States, which has remained an attractive destination for Indian knowledge-seekers for more than a century, despite Britain having held a pre-eminent position in India’s education matrix because of colonial ties.
Indeed, the entire pantheon of India’s founding fathers — Gandhi, Patel, Nehru, Jinnah among others — was academically minted in England. A few journeyed further afield to America. The best known among them is Bhimrao Ambedkar, the architect of India’s Constitution and the country’s first law minister, who came to the US in 1913 to study at Columbia University; and Jayaprakash Narayan, who studied at Berkeley in 1922-23.
Less well known among those who thrived in the groves of American academe — Manabendra Nath Roy, who lived in Palo Alto and NYC around 1915 and would go on to found Communist parties in Mexico and India; Dhan Gopal Mukherjee, who earned a degree in metaphysics from Stanford in 1914, and whose children’s novel Gay-Neck, the Story of a Pigeon, won the Newbery Medal for excellence in 1928; and Gobind Behari Lal, who also came to UC Berkeley in 1912 and went on to become the science editor for the San Francisco Examiner in the 1920s. He was the first journalist to use the term “Science Writer” in his byline, engendering specialised science reporting and sharing a Pulitzer Prize for it in 1937.
Even back in those days, some stayed back, and some returned to India (as they do now) amid a political row that saw early immigrant-hopefuls such as Bhicaji Balsara and Bhagat Singh Thind go to the highest court to gain US citizenship. Settling down in America was not an option for most; The Naturalization Act of 1790 made Asians ineligible for citizenship. Among the more colourful characters of that era was Hubli-born Hucheshwar Gurusidha Mudgal, who it was said earned “an almost absurd number of degrees” after enrolling at Columbia and NYU, before he became a managing editor at Negro World, and eventually returning to India to become a Member of Parliament.
It was only after 1965 that the number of Indians heading to the US ticked up from hundreds to thousands as Britain’s cachet and allure began to go down and America’s went up. This was partly on account of the Immigration Act of 1965 that removed the discrimination against Asians and opened the door for citizenship. By the 1980s, a trickle had gone from a steady stream to a torrent, bumping up from 20,000 in the 1980s to nearly 200,000 in 2020. Unlike the generation two decades on either side of India’s Independence, the new cohort mostly went to America with the intention of settling down.
Indeed, as far back as 1980s, one could travel across USA using a network of school and college alumni (with a supporting cast of distant cousins), as your columnist once did. The premise those days of settling down in America after graduating was based on a careful calibration of acquiring a degree in the shortest time at lowest cost and recouping the expense at the earliest by working in America. Indian and Chinese students nailed this template. Unlike with American students, whose college loans extend interminably and are repaid over a lifetime without any urgency, debt is anathema for Asians.
Back in the 80s, the joke was an Indian student’s life in America rotated between Advisor and Budweiser. Teachers loved Indians and Chinese because they were diligent, helpful, and never stepped out of line. Because they had no social life and never spent money, they graduated fast and cheap. With their reasonable command of English, Indian students also made good teaching assistants. All this made foreign students, particularly Asians, some of the most valued students. In time they ate the American’s lunch, many via H1B visas.
Numbers, contribution to the US economy
i) The number of Indian students in the USA, 2010-17 and the annual growth rate;
ii) The US universities preferred by international students;
iii) The fields of study preferred by international students;
iv) The contribution of China, India and other major source countries to US earnings from foreign students.
2011: Number of visa applicants on a rise
High cut-offs drive students to US
The Times of India, Aug 6, 2011
The intimidating barriers for entry to India’s top colleges have had an unexpected fallout. If the rise in student visa applications this year is anything to go by, students, instead of downgrading their choices and settling for second- or third-best, are increasingly looking westwards and flooding American universities with admission applications.
Data released by the US embassy reveals that the number of Indian students who have applied for visas to study in the US is up 20% over last year’s. Education counsellors say they are seeing large crowds again, the vital difference being that the students seeking advice are much younger. While 24,500 Indian students were granted visas to join American universities last year, most went there for a masters and 14.5% joined a grad school. “But this year has seen a phenomenal rise in the number of undergraduate students,” said counsellor Pratibha Jain.
Officials at the American embassy confirmed that the number of student visa applications in India was already significantly higher than at this point last year. “The US has greatly expanded its consular staffing and educational outreach initiatives to ensure that prospective students can get the visa appointments and information they need,” said an official. “This effort includes significantly increased funding for the Education-USA advising centers.”
Jain said she had noticed a shift in the attitude of students. “Earlier, they all wanted to go to the famous 10 to 15 universities,” she said. “Now there is a range of good second-tier colleges they are willing to go to. Community colleges that charge about Rs 12-15 lakh annually are also on the Indian students’ radar now.” However, experts said it was too early to forecast the number of actual entrants to American universities this fall. “It depends on how many are accepted,” said an education consultant.
2013-14, an increase of 6%
After 3-yr lull, Indian students rediscover lure of US degrees
Chidanand Rajghatta The Times of India
But Are Distant Second To Chinese Pupils
The number of Indian students in the United States increased by 6% to 102,673 in the academic year 2013-2014, reversing a threeyear trend of their declining numbers at American campuses. But Chinese students continued to surge into the US, edging up to 300,000.
The annual `Open Doors' report on international student traffic in and out of the US shows that nearly one in three foreign students on US campuses is now from China (31%) compared to only around one in eight from India (12%). China, India, and Korea (8%) between them account for more than 50% of the 886,000 international students, who contributed $27 billion to the US economy .
The modest reversal in the Indian student inflow into the US belies earlier reports that there has been a 26% spike in their numbers. In fact, after peaking at nearly 105,000 in 2009-2010 academic year, Indian student population in the US dropped to 96,754 in 20122013 as other destinations like the UK, Canada, Australia, and Europe hawked their educational wares before the continuing US allure kicked in this year.
The US remains the preferred destination for foreign students, the report says, hosting more of the world's 4.5 million globally mobile college and university students than any other country in the world, with almost double the number hosted by the UK, the second leading host country .
Still, the Indian student inflow into the US story pales in comparison with that of the Chinese invasion over the past 15 years during which `Open Doors' has monitored the traffic. In 2000, China and India were not too far apart in terms of student traffic into the US, each having close to 45,000 students in the world's most favored des tination. At one point in the 1990s, there were more students in the US from India than from China. China has since pulled away .
There are now five times as many Chinese students on US campuses as were reported in Open Doors 2000; but only two times as many Indian students.
The last few years has also seen a massive spike in student inflow from Saudi Arabia (which, at 54,000 students) now stands 4th after China, India, and South Korea), mainly on the strength of government scholarships. Significantly, Pakistan, which used to send a large number of students to the US, now does not even feature in the Top 25.
New York University became the leading host university for international students this year, after 12 years during which University of Southern California was the leader. For the first time ever, four institutions broke the 10,000 mark: New York University , University of Southern California, University of Illinois -UrbanaChampaign, and Columbia University , which each hosted more than 10,000 international students.
Number of Indian students going to US, 2013-17
2013-19: numbers, trends
The Number of Indian students studying in the USA, 2013-19
2015: 133,000 students, 3.6 bn
1. Oneindia, Oneindia | 16th Nov, 2015
2. The Times of India, November 17, 2015
133,000 Indian students contribute $3.6 bn to US economy
Washington, Nov 16: With a whopping 29.4 percent increase, a record high of 132,888 Indian students studying in the US in 2014/15 academic year contributed $3.6 billion to the US economy, according to a new report.
India was the second leading place of origin for students coming to the US, making up 13.6 percent of the total international students in the country, according to the 2015 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, released Monday.
The report is published annually by the Institute of International Education in partnership with the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
While Open Doors does not compile region-wise data for their international students, Michael Evans, consular section chief, mentioned that Gujarat and Mah arashtra make up the biggest students' pool from the western region. “We have had the highest number of visa applications, including students' visas, from these two states in the western region,“ he said. The region also includes Chhattisgarh, Goa and MP.In the last one year, there has been a 56% rise in the students' visas issued in the country , when the western region saw a jump of 89%.
Science, technology , engineering, math (STEM) remained the most popular choice of study among Indian students. Of these, engineering was the top choice, with 37.5% students pursuing it, followed by mathcomputer with 31.4% students. International students' spending in all 50 states contributed more than $30 billion to the US economy in 2014 with students from India contributing $3.6 billion, the report said citing the US Department of Commerce.
China remains the top sending country, with almost twice the number of students in the US as India, but India's rate of growth and absolute increases outpaced China's 11 percent.
It was also the second year of rising numbers for India, following three years of declines.
India's 29.4 percent growth is the highest rate of growth for Indian students in the history of the Open Doors project, which spans back to 1954/55.
The last time India grew at a comparable rate (29.1) was in 2000/01 when the number of students from India exceeded 50,000 for the first time.
India, China and Brazil accounted for most of the growth in international students on US campuses as their numbers grew at the highest rate in 35 years, increasing by ten percent to a record high of 974,926 students in the 2014/15 academic year.
The number of Indian students in the US is more than double what it was 15 years ago in 1999/2000.
The majority of Indian students in the US study at the graduate level, according to the report. In 2014/15, their breakdown was: 12.4 percent undergraduate; 64 percent graduate students; 1.4 percent other; 22.1 percent OPT (Optional Practical Training).
In 2001/02, India became the top sender of students to the US and retained that position for eight years, through 2008/09.
In 2009/10, the rate of growth from India levelled off, and China overtook India as the top sender and retains that place for the sixth year in a row now, after eight years of double-digit increases.
In 2014/15, China and India together accounted for 67 percent of the increase in international students, and they now constitute nearly 45 percent of the total number of international students in US higher education.
Students from the top three countries of origin - China, India, and South Korea - now represent approximately 51 percent of the total enrolment of international students in the US, with the number from China and India increasing, and the numbers from South Korea declining by six percent.
In the 2013/14 academic year, 304,467 American students studied abroad for academic credit, an increase of five percent, the highest rate of growth since the 2007/08 academic year. India saw a five percent increase in students from the US.
2015-16: India no.2 source, but highest growth (24.9%)
Despite the spectre of xenophobia, internatio nal students in the United States crossed the 1-million mark, an increase of 7% over the previous year. And one in six of them in Trumpland is an Indian.
The rate of growth of Indian students, at almost 25%, is the highest among the top 25 places of origin for scholars in America. In all, 1.7 lakh students from India are studying in the US, making up 16% of the total international students. A majority of them study at the graduate level. In 2015-16, the breakdown was: 11.6% undergraduate; 61.4% graduate; 1.5% other; 25.5% OPT (Optional Practical Training). Last year, these students contributed $5billion to the American economy .
In absolute numbers, China remains the largest sender of international students to the US with a 31.5% share.Students from the top three senders -China, India and Saudi Arabia -now represent around 53% of all international student enrolment. In all, 10,43,839 foreign candi dates, representing 5% of the US' total higher education student population, contribute nearly $36 billion to the US economy , says the department of commerce.
Open Doors 2016 reports that about 75% of all international students receive the majority of their funds from sources outside the US, including personal and family sources, as well as assistance from their home country governments or universities.
The number of Chinese students grew by 8.1% in 201516, but those from India rose 24.9% in 2015-16, following a 29.4% growth the year prior and a 6.1% growth rate the year before that. Saudi Arabia replaced South Korea as the third-largest place of origin, though the increase in Saudi students, at 2.2%, has slowed.
“The Open Doors report shows that international students value the quality , diversity and strong reputation of US institutions, and recognise that these institutions provide opportunities to them not only in their education, but also in their careers,“ said Institute of International Education president Allan Goodman.
Despite the rise in international students, Open Doors also shows that the gender gap among international students has widened slightly over the past two years.
2015-18: graduate applications decline
2015-18: applications from India, China and other regions for graduate studies in the USA.
2016-17/ percentage of increase 12.3% than 25% (2015-16)
Though the US is still a much-favoured destination for Indian students, the percentage of increase in fresh enrolments by Indians halved in 2016-2017 to 12.3% from almost 25% the previous year, according to the latest Open Doors survey conducted by the Institute of International Education. The year 2014-15 too had seen robust growth of 29.4%.
In global terms, the US saw a decline in fresh enrolments in 2017, with nearly 10,000 fewer candidates signing up; the new student count of about 2.9 lakh represents a 3% decrease from the previous year.
For the third year in a row, the largest growth came from India, primarily at the graduate level and in optional practical training (OPT), which is temporary employment linked to a student’s area of study (eligible students can receive up to 12 months of OPT before and/or after completing studies). The Indian student population in the US is now 1.86 lakh.
50% of foreign students in US are from India, China
About 22,000 Indian students in the US are undergraduate students
(13.9% increase over the previous year), 1.05 lakh graduate students (3% rise), 57,132 doing their OPT (35%) and 2,259 who have enrolled for non-degree courses (a fall of 7.3%).
China sends the most students to the US, followed by India. But India’s rate of growth has still outpaced China’s (which is at 6.8%). Students from these two countries now represent almost 50% of the total enrolment of international students in the US.
While overall fresh enrolment has fallen, the number of international students studying on American campuses has increased. For the second consecutive year, US colleges and universities hosted more than 1million international students, thereby reaching 1.08 million.
The factors driving the slowing of growth include a mix of global and local economic conditions, and in some cases, expanded higher education opportunities at home and declining populations, stated the press statement from the IIE on the survey. “Much of the increase reported for the past couple of years can be attributed to more students pursuing OPT related to their academic fields after their degree studies in the US.
These flattening trends have a nearly two-year history, as students reflected in the current Open Doors report were already on campus in September 2016 for the fall term, and most had applied in 2015 and made their decisions in spring 2016.
While this year’s Open Doors report shows strong growth in the number of international students studying in the US in the past decade, with an increase of 85% since 2006/07 the new findings signal that the increase is 3% compared to increases of 7% to 10% for the previous three years.
2016> 2017: Fewer Indians joined US engg colleges
The number of students from India enrolled in graduate level programmes in computer science and engineering in the US declined by 21% from 2016 to 2017, according to a study by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), based on data from the US Department of Homeland Security.
The NFAP said the number of international students enrolled in US universities declined by approximately 4% between 2016 and 2017, and more than half of this could be attributed to fewer individuals from India studying computer science and engineering at the graduate level in 2017. Indian graduate students completing degrees in science and engineering at US universities are a major source of talent for US firms.
The report of the NFAP, a non-profit, non-partisan public policy research organisation based in Virginia, indicated that the Donald Trump administration’s restrictive visa and work policies had affected the prospects of attracting and retaining bright foreign students making a significant contribution to the US economy.
The report said that the Narendra Modi government’s demonetisation move — which led to severe cash shortages — might have played a role in the sharp decline in Indian students. But it ruled this out as a major cause, considering that there was an increase (of about 740) in the number of Indian students going to the US for undergraduate programmes in computer science and engineering.
Students from India mostly go to the US for graduate programmes (which lead to a post-graduate degree) than for undergraduate programmes. The Ministry of External Affairs estimates that there were 206,708 Indian students studying in the US in 2017. “News reports and other information about the US limiting the ability of international students to gain employment after completing their studies could be discouraging enrolment,” the NFAP report said.
The report said: “The key to remember is that international students have more choices than ever before about where to study and US policies on immigration and international students have an impact on those choices. To the extent the US makes it more difficult to work after graduation or imposes other restrictive policies it is less likely that international students choose America as their destination,” it said.
The report said fewer international students coming to the US will have a serious impact on US students and US universities, as well as American companies.”
National Foundation for American Policy said the number of international students enrolled in US universities declined by approximately 4% between 2016 and 2017, and more than half of this could be attributed to fewer individuals from India studying computer science and engineering at the graduate level in 2017. Indian graduate students completing degrees in science and engineering at US universities are a major source of talent for US firms
2016> 2017: 27% decrease
Desi Youths Heading To Canada, Oz As US Tightens Visa Regime
The results of a restrictive immigration policy are now clearly evident with the number of student visas issued by the Trump administration dropping, especially to those hailing from India and China.
Statistics for the year ending September 30, 2017, show an aggregate decline of 16% compared to the previous year, with 4.21 lakh student visas handed out against 5.02 lakh in a year ago, according to statistics released by the US department of state.
For Indian students, the drop is a sharper 27% with 47,302 visas being allotted in the same period as against 65,257 visas issued in the fiscal ended September 30, 2016, under the Obama presidency.
The data underscores the fact that Canada and Australia are emerging as alternative destinations. Tightening of H1-B visa policies (H1-B is a popular work visa for Indians) and also uncertainties relating to optional practical training programs (OPTs), which enable international students to work in the US for a short period, are attributed to this declining interest for higher education in the US.
In all, 3.93 lakh visas (F1 category) were granted to international students and 27,435 visas (F2 category) were granted to their spouses and children during the year ending September 30, 2017.
A nationality-wise breakup of each sub-segment is not available, with the department of state clubbing visas allotted to various nationalities under a single ‘F’ category. However, Asian students constituted the bulk and collectively, Indians and Chinese comprised 40% of the total.
During fiscal 2017, 2.86 lakh ‘F’ category of visas were issued to Asians (nearly 68% of total), which was a decline of nearly 20% over the previous year. For Indian students, it was a steep fall with numbers down by 27% – only 47,302 visas were issued to them in this period.
Student visa approvals had steadily increased over several years in the recent past, and it peaked to more than 6.5 lakh in 2015 before it began to dip. The year-onyear decline for 2016 as compared to 2015 was nearly 26%.
During the application season for work visas last year, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services carried out ‘extreme vetting’ of H1-B applications, especially where the wages were at entry level. As reported by TOI earlier, the question asked was whether the application was for a job that required specialisation (which is a requirement for the H1-B visa) and if so, why were the wages at entry level. Thus, it was challenging for companies to hire freshers through the H1-B route.
Further, a case is pending in US courts regarding the OPT program that enables international students to work in the US after their studies for a certain period. Towards the end of February, a US circuit court (which is a higher court) heard the appeal of the petition against OPT.
Pew Research Center, a US headquartered think tank, has come down heavily on the OPT mechanism. In a report, it points out that: “Although nominally OPT jobs are temporary, they can last up to 29 months. Further many of those working in the US under the OPT program go on to apply for H1-B visas to stay longer in the US.”
“Various challenges relating to work visas and a probable change in the OPT mechanism, sometime in the future, are factors which are prompting Indian students to explore universities in Canada and even Australia, says an immigration consultant.
2017: Only 4% of Indian students overstayed
Given the large number of students from China and India that flock to US educational institutes each year, only a handful overstay their welcome. Of the total number of 16.62 lakh students scheduled to complete their studies during the 12-month period ended September 30, 2017, 4.15% overstayed – in other words, they did not depart from the US at the end of their study and practical training program. These statistics were released last week by the US Department of Homeland Security in its ‘Overstay Report’.
Nearly 1.3 lakh Indian students were expected to leave the US during the fiscal 2017 (period October 1, 2016, up to September 30, 2017), of whom 3.45% overstayed. The overstay rate for Chinese students was 3.33% (see table).
An overstay occurs if an individual lawfully admitted to the US for an authorised period remains in the country beyond this tenure. The report explains the authorised period can be a fixed period or can be for the duration of a certain activity – such as the period during which a student is pursuing studies and practical training. DHS identifies two types of overstays. If no departure is recorded, the individual falls in the category of ‘Suspected In-Country Overstays’. On the other hand, those whose departures are recorded after their authorised period expired fall in the bracket of ‘Out-of-Country Overstays’.
Collectively Indian and Chinese students comprise 40% of the total international students. During fiscal 2017, 1.16 lakh ‘F’ category visas were issued to Chinese students and 47,300 to Indian students. Exchange students get J category visas and those for vocational students are M category.
DHS has proposed to raise the visa fees for international students seeking F and M category of visas to USD350 from the existing USD200. Given current exchange rates, Indian students will have to pay approximately Rs 10,500 more. The hike is expected to be finalised in the coming month.
2018: Indian students bag 56% of job training slots
Nearly 50,507 Eligible For Post-Degree Optional Training In FY17
In dian students in the US hailing from STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields dominated the scene when it came to participating in the optional practical training (OPT) programme, under which they can work in the United States once they obtain their degrees.
They held 50,507 (or 56%) of the total STEM-OPT authorisations in fiscal 2017. Chinese students, with 21,705 (or 24%) of the total STEMOPT authorisations, were next in line. Only a handful of students from other nations had STEM-OPT authorisations for the fiscal ending September 30, 2017. To illustrate, only 500 odd Canadian students and about 400 from Mexico participated in OPT.
In the US, international students are eligible for a 12-month OPT. But those with STEM degrees are eligible for a 24-month OPT extension. The dominance of Indian students having STEPOPT authorisation is significant, given that overall the number of students from China is nearly double of those from India.
These statistics are part of the data-sets released by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), last week. The data is drawn from the Student and Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS) which houses information about international students and exchange visitors such as research scholars. Corresponding data of the previous period was not available. It appears to be a new initiative to boost greater transparency. Prominent companies hiring STEM-OPT students were Amazon, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Integra Technologies and Facebook.
There has been an increased focus on STEM-OPT placements by the Trump Administration. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the immigration agency, continues to frown on arrangements that provide ‘labour for hire’ and those where a bona-fide employer-employee relationship cannot be demonstrated. However, there has been a beneficial development in recent months. In its edition dated August 19, TOI had reported that USCIS has reversed its earlier stand that international STEM students undergoing OPT cannot be placed at customer work sites. However, employers, even if they place STEMOPT students at customer work sites, need to meet their training obligations.
Overall, in aggregate, nearly 2.50 lakh or 16% of the total international students in the US were from India, placing it as the second largest country of origin, following China, during the fiscal year 2017. The number of students hailing from China, at 4.81 lakh (or 30% of the total), were almost twice the number from India. Nearly 46% of the international students are drawn from India and China. The total number of active international students during the 12-month fiscal ended September 30, 2017 stood at 15.90 lakh.
The release of such data is aimed at enhancing transparency about international students in the US, including where they are from and where they are studying, said Rachel Canty, deputy assistant director of the Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) in an official release.
However, it should be noted that data is periodically drawn from SEVIS to account for the number of international students, and interim reports are periodically released. For instance, in April this year, ICE in its report said there were 12.02 lakh active F and M students in March 2018, a decrease of 0.5% if compared with March 2017. Nearly half of the F and M student population in US hailed from either China (with 3.77 lakh students) or India (with 2.12 lakh students). For the twelve month period ended March 2018, China sent 6,305 more students and India sent 2,356 more students, signifying a minuscule growth between 1-2%.
F visa is allotted to international students attending accredited educational institutions, M visa is a vocational student visa and the J visa more commonly known as exchange visitor’s visa, is given to say — research assistants.
2018: Growth in Indian student numbers slows
Though the US remains the most popular foreign destination for Indian students, the annual increase in enrolment is down to 5.4% (2017-18 academic year) from 12.3%, due to a weakening rupee and unfriendly visa and immigration policies. In 2015-16 and the fiscal before that, the figure was 25-30%.
But US Still Remains Top Draw, Numbers Nearly Double Since 2013
A weakening rupee and unfriendly visa and immigration policies have dented the appeal of US universities in India. Though America remains the most popular foreign destination for Indian students, the annual increase in enrolment has dropped to 5.4% (2017-18 academic year) from 12.3%. In 2015-16, and the year before that, this figure was robust, between 25-30%.
The reason for the poor growth of late is that enrolment of Indian students in American graduate programmes (which account for the bulk of Indian students in the US) has dropped by 8.8% this year. The data is by the Open Doors Survey conducted by the Institute of International Education.
The top 25 American institutions hosting international students constitute 23% of the US’s overall international student strength. Experts say enrolment of Indian students in US universities will continue to decline in the years ahead as post-study work options dry up owing to the American government’s policies. Instead, attention will keep shifting to Canada and Australia, which have emerged as more affordable and friendlier study destinations for Indians.
Nevertheless, “the growth in students pursuing optional practical training (OPT) has been significant in the last few years”, says Harmeet Pental, COO, IDP Education.
TOI reported the trend recently. “If OPT is not considered in total enrolment, there is a 6.4% drop in admissions. OPT students this year number 75,390, who constitute about 40% of the 1.96 lakh Indian students in the US,” said Pental. He said that most engineering and computer science graduates, together constituting about 70% of Indian students in the US, prefer to complete their OPT.
Consultants helping students with admissions abroad said visa policies are looked at with apprehension by students. Kashyap Matani, co-founder at Yocket.in, an online community that connects students and university officials, said, “While the US is still a top preference for many, we get a lot of students who are looking at admissions in European countries like Germany or the Netherlands, which are providing cheaper options, apart from Canada and Australia. Even if US work visa policies don’t directly affect international students, there is much apprehension as the focus continues to be on job placements after finishing expensive courses abroad.”
Overall, the number of Indian students on US campuses has doubled over the last decade: from 94,563 in 2007-08 to 1.96 lakh in 2017-18.
Minister counselor for consular affairs, US embassy, Joseph Pomper, said, “In the past 10 years, the number of Indians going to the US has doubled. Indian students are looking for a great education and the US continues to offer this.” He said the embassy continues to see well-qualified Indians applying to study in the US as well as record attendance at US university fairs held across India.
2018-19: a 2.9% increase
India and China make up 52% of the international student population in the US, with China the number one sender
Of a total revenue of $44.7 billion (a 5.5% increase over last year) that international students add to the US economy, China contributes $14.9 billion, and India $8.1 billion
NEW DELHI: The United States continues to be a popular destination for Indian students, though fewer are flying out now because of unfriendly visa and immigration policies. Indian student population in the US went up marginally (2.9%) from 1.96 lakh in 2017-18 to 2.02 lakh in 2018-19, according to a new report. However, this figure is a cumulative number, which covers students across batches who enrolled in American universities over several preceding years.
More indicative of the latest enrolment trends are the visa numbers released by the US state department, which suggest a steep slide in the number of Indian students opting for a US education or managing to get approvals.
The number of student visas to Indians—who form a sizeable subset of total international student population—fell more than 40% from 74,831 in 2015 to 42,694 in 2018, said the US state department. Even globally, the number of student visas issued by the US decreased by close to 40% between 2015 and 2018.
In all, the US now has 24,813 Indians at the undergraduate level, 90,333 in graduate programmes, 84,630 pursuing optional practical training (OPT), and 2,238 in non-degree courses. Decrease in admissions in business management was offset by a newfound fancy for maths and statistics, which leads to jobs in data analysis and artificial intelligence.
Coursewise, Indian students pursuing maths and computer science make up the largest chunk (37%), overtaking engineering (34%) for the first time, data from Opendoors by the Institute of International Education shows. Undergraduate numbers have grown 6.3% and graduate numbers have shrunk (-5.6%), reversing a popular trend of many decades when students would seek admission for a masters in the US after graduating in engineering.
Overall, the number of in-bound international students dipped in 2018-19 by 0.9% compared with 2017-18, which recorded a much sharper fall of 6.6%. Decline in fresh enrolment of international students continued in 2019-20 at the same pace (0.9%), according to data from the 2019 Fall International Student Enrolment Snapshot Survey.
2019: 2lakh Indian students, 75% of them in masters
US has 2L desi students, 75% of them in masters
Of 11L Int’l Students, Half Are From India & China
Indian and Chinese citizens made up nearly half of the total 11.7 lakh international students in the United States as of March 2019. Other than the large numbers, though, students from the two countries share little in common, academics say.
Those from India dominated masters courses whereas a larger percentage of Chinese students had enrolled for bachelors degrees. Collectively, the number of “active” students from these countries, at 5.8 lakh, comprised 49.5% of the total international students who hold an F visa or an M visa for academic and vocational studies, respectively.
The data was released recently in its raw form by the US department of homeland security and was based on SEVIS figures. SEVIS or the student and exchange visitor information system is the database that DHS uses to maintain and manage information on international students. Nearly 75%, or 1.58 lakh of the total 2.09 lakh active students from India, had enrolled in masters courses. Of these, 11% were studying for a bachelors degree and 10% were pursuing a doctorate.
While the raw data does not dissect the numbers into study streams, various other studies and anecdotal references indicate that a significant number of students from India opt for the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) stream.
Typically, international students do seek to work in the host country for at least a few years. For those who aspire to work in the US, though, obtaining an H-1B work visa is challenging. Merely 85,000 such visas are issued annually with 20,000 reserved under the master’s cap. Plus, the selection process involves a lottery.
For the financial 2019-20 season, successful H-1B applicants would be permitted to work in the US from October at the earliest. The recently announced lottery reversal mechanism, was implemented for the first time, this season. This means, USCIS first conducted the selection process of all H-1B cap applications. Then, it conducted a selection for those eligible for the masters’ cap. This would give those with a US masters or a higher degree a better shot at getting selected through the lottery. “...Students who pursue higher levels of education will benefit statistically in the annual H-1B lottery from the new immigration regulations,” says David Nachman, managing attorney at NPZ Law Group.
Surprisingly, while the number of active students from China, at 3.7 lakh, far exceeded Indian, merely 31% of them had enrolled for a master’s. Nearly 1.4 lakh or 37% had opted for bachelor’s courses. According to media reports, lately Chinese students, especially those studying or planning to study robotics, aviation, engineering & hi-tech manufacturing—priority areas for the Made in China 2025 Industrial Policy—have been facing visa-related challenges. This is a fallout of the trade war between US and China.
SEVIS-based data also showed that the number of international students in the US is on the decline. At 11.7 lakh, student numbers on F and M visas had shrunk by 3% from March 2018. The number of students from India had shrunk marginally by 1% and those from China by 2%.
2019: Indians applying to business schools drop from 57 to 45%
Reflecting a global trend, just 45% of Indian students who took GMAT sent their scores to US business schools this year, down from 57% for courses that started in 2015, shows data released by the Graduate Management Admission Council.
Around 48% of US programs have reported a fall in international applications this year, with 23% seeing steep declines. Overall, applications from abroad were down 13.7% at US programs that responded to both the 2018 and 2019 surveys. Half of the international students with GMAT scores who did not apply to the US said the bleak chance of obtaining a job there impacted their decision.
Others cited factors like the ability to obtain a student visa (48%), the political environment (47%), safety fears (37%), and discrimination concer ns (34%).
Globally, applications to MBA programs were down 6.9% year-on-year, and 52% programs reported declines than growth (40%) or stability (8%). The only exception was Canada, where, for the third consecutive year, a majority of programs saw more applications. The UK improved its showing, with 61% MBA programs getting more applications in 2019 over the previous year.
Interestingly, large, highly ranked, full-time, two-year MBA programs in US saw the steepest declines. As many as 47% of the top 50 programs said international applications were down by 21% or more compared with last year. However, the drop in candidates with a self-reported GMAT score of 700 or above—meaning a good shot at highly ranked programs—to the US was milder, falling from 69% in 2017 to 62% in the first half of 2019.
“Quality business schools are emerging around the world and the competition for talent is fierce, the sign of a vibrant marketplace,” said Sangeet Chowfla, CEO of GMAC.
In India, as well as China, domestic applications drove a positive admissions cycle. Among 28 responding programs in India, most reported either growth (50%) or stability (11%), but the percentage of programs reporting growth fell for the second straight year.
The Canada success story this year is built on the strength of both global and domestic applications. Half of the programs reported international application growth, including 26% that saw a steep rise.
Record 43% fall in new foreign students in US
Indians joining US univs fell by 4.4% in ’19: Survey
In 2019, data captured by Open Doors survey revealed that enrolment from India declined by 4.4% after a 2.9% rise the previous academic year. The slide is pronounced in the graduate, non-degree and optional practical training (OPT) numbers, with a small increase of 0.9% in the undergraduate numbers. Indians enrolling in American graduate programmes, which account for the largest slice of Indian students in the US, dropped by 5.7%. The highest fall — 21.4% — was from non-degree courses and 4.1% came from OPT — practical work experience after a degree programme, for up to 36 months.
In all, the US now has 25,032 Indians at the undergraduate level, 85,160 in graduate programmes and 81,173 pursuing OPT, apart from 1,759 doing non-degree courses. Indian students contributed $7.7 billion to the US economy. Falling interest in business management was offset by the new-found fancy for maths and statistics, which lead to jobs in data analysis and AI.
For a fifth consecutive year, the US hosted more than one million international students (1,075,496) during the 2019/2020 academic year. Global data indicates a slight decline (1.8%) in the number of international students in the US during the 2019/2020 academic year, after a tiny rise of 0.05% in 2018/19. New international student enrolment numbers stood at 2,67,712, a 0.6% decline, but a marked improvement from the 7% decline of the previous two years. According to the US commerce department, international students contributed $44 billion to the US economy in 2019. China, followed by India and South Korea, sent the largest numbers of students to the US.
Unfriendly visa and immigration policies have steadily had an impact on students flying out to the US for an education. Of the 25 top sending nations, 19 recorded declines in growth rate as compared to last year.
3% rise over 2018; student visas fall 40%
The US continues to be a popular destination for Indian students, though fewer are flying out now because of unfriendly visa and immigration policies.
Indian student population in the US went up marginally (2.9%) from 1.96 lakh in 2017-18 to 2.02 lakh in 2018-19, according to a new report. However, this figure is a cumulative number, which covers students across batches who enrolled in US universities over several preceding years.
More indicative of the latest enrolment trends are visa numbers released by the US state department, which suggest a steep slide in the number of Indians opting for a US education or managing to get approvals. The number of student visas to Indianswho form a sizeable subset of total international student population—fell over 40% from 74,831 in 2015 to 42,694 in 2018, said the state department. Globally, the number of student visas issued by the US dipped by close to 40% between 2015 and 2018.
In all, the US now has 24,813 Indians at the undergraduate level, 90,333 in graduate programmes, 84,630 pursuing optional practical training and 2,238 in non-degree courses. Decrease in admissions in business management was offset by a newfound fancy for maths and statistics, which leads to jobs in data analysis and artificial intelligence.
Coursewise, Indians pursuing maths and computer science make up the largest chunk (37%), overtaking engineering (34%) for the first time, data from Opendoors by the Institute of International Education shows. Undergraduate numbers have grown 6.3% and graduate numbers have shrunk (-5.6%), reversing a popular trend of several decades when students would seek admission for a masters in the US after graduating in engineering.
Overall, the number of inbound international students dipped in 2018-19 by 0.9% compared with 2017-18, which recorded sharper fall of 6.6%. Decline in fresh enrolment of students continued in 2019-20 at the same pace (0.9%).
Leading places of origin of international students, 2016-21, year-wise
2021: 55,000 student visas issued to Indians
The US has issued the highest-ever number of student visas to Indians — 55,000 and counting —this year, after a record low last year due to closure of the consulates during the Covid-19 lockdown. The US embassy in India has said that with the student rush dissipating, it “will turn its energy and effort to other visa categories”. “Huge congratulations to our hardworking consular teams across US mission in India. This year, more than 55,000 students are boarding planes to study in the US, an all-time record in India. Wishing all students a successful academic year,” the US embassy in India tweeted.
Between October 2019 and September 2020, the US had issued 15,000 F-1 students visas to Indians. This was 64% lower than the same period in the previous year and also the lowest figure since October 1999- September 2000 (American fiscal). Several countries had last year suspended visa processing in India during the lockdown.
Visa processing for students, who are supposed to join in fall, begins in May of that year. Due to the deadly second wave, this process got delayed by two months in India. “In July, as soon as conditions allowed for the resumption of visa services without endangering applicants’ health and safety, consular teams worked not only to match, but surpass, their pre-Covid workload. Ultimately, these efforts paid off,” the US embassy said. With the Covid situation improving significantly in India, the US has eased travel restrictions twice within a month. The US CDC currently categorises India at ‘level 2: moderate’ in terms of the pandemic, a vast upgrade from the highest ‘level 4: do not travel’ till mid-July.
As in 2019
In November 2016, during an end-semester lab examination, I sneaked a peek at my cellphone to look at the election results. It was clearly edging towards Donald Trump. Fear struck me. I imagined a future where I would be graduating with no job due to the stringent immigration laws that Trump would go on to impose. Today, I realize my fear of being jobless was warranted, however, the reason was not. Little did I know the real ordeal were not alleged laws and legislation. The Immigration Situation
The US is one of the top graduate school destinations for international students because of its quality education, top-notch infrastructure and arguably open labour market. It hosted about 10 lakh students in 2017 with the UK and China bagging second and third place.
Indian students continue to be the second leading community among students, rising to nearly 1,86,000 in 2017. And Tamil Nadu constitutes a fair share of the pie. For these students, the coveted visa category is the H-1B as it permits stay in the US for six years while employed, and extends it indefinitely once an application for a green card is filed. In the past 16 years, the supply of the allotted 85,000 visas has been exhausted every year and since 2014, it did not last more than five days of accepting applications.
The good news came with a new ruling by Trump in 2018 that tipped the scale towards master’s degree holders. From 2019, the order of filing will be reversed. Everyone, including master’s students, will first be considered in the 65,000 visa category. The master’s students who are left out will get a second chance in the next 20,000 visa category. This increases the probability of selection from 51% to 55% for master’s students.
The bad news is, Trump’s push to ‘hire Americans’ has increased the number of visa denials, which prolong the process and cost more money for employers. In spite of this more than 190,098 visas were filed in 2018 — a strong message that foreign talent is valued by American employers.
The Real Elephant in The Room
When we hear about lack of jobs in the US, we are tempted to blame the immigration restrictions due to its conspicuous nature. Dig a little deeper and you uncover more symptoms.
While Indian universities tend to have placement committees responsible for roping in companies and recruiting students, universities in the US are yet to recognize the term ‘placement’. Unlike the mass recruitment that happens in India, securing a job in the US involves a few domino cards to fall at once — networking with employees, attending career fairs, securing an internship and acquiring specialized skills.
There is not just a cultural shift, but a psychological shift as well. "Learning to drive, cook, manage finances, taking care of a household unaided are some of the things I would have wanted to pick up if I could go back in time," says Akshay Jha, who has recently completed his master’s from the Cornell University. Research shows universities need to understand better the barriers (international) students face to enforce more effective transition programmes. Some of the problems of the students include cultural misunderstanding, financial and social support, and inclusion in the local community. Studies have found stress and lack of social support lead to psychological issues.
What Can You Do Differently
Marcelo Barros, founder of The International Advantage, which offers job search workshops, says, "At least 90% of the job search process is well understood by international students. There are subtleties that can go unnoticed and it is the remaining 10% that students need to focus on. For example, candidates who get hired understand the job responsibilities of the position they’re applying for beyond what is written in the job description. International students often find it strange that by speaking about an employer’s challenges during an interview — and providing solutions to them — may make them more competitive candidates in the eyes of employers."
The number of Indians (and other nationals) who received science & engineering, and other, PhDs in the USA.
The National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), a US based nonprofit research entity, in its recent report has said there is no evidence that foreign students participating in the Optional Practical Training (OPT) reduce job opportunities for Americans. Foreign students are eligible for a 12-month OPT under which they can work in the US. Those who have completed their degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are eligible for applying for a further OPT extension of 24 months.
The regulatory agenda of the Trump administration has from time to time indicated a proposed overhaul of the OPT programme to reduce fraud and to protect the interest of American workers. NFAP points out that the OPT is a win-win for foreign students and US employers. It enables employers to judge if a foreign student is a good fit before sponsoring him or her for a costly and scarce H-1B work visa. The OPT programme gives foreign students (and their employers) multiple shots at obtaining an H-1B visa, particularly if they are eligible for a STEM extension.
Based on statistical evidence, the report shows that foreign students working in the US via the OPT programme account for a small share of new graduates — ranging from one to 13% of STEM graduates, depending on the degree levels and constitute a far smaller share of US workers. In fiscal 2016 (year ending September 30, 2016), OPT participants comprised of less than 1% of all workers with a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field.
The OPT programme requires that foreign students work in a job directly related to their major, so a better gauge of the relative size of the OPT programme may be the number of foreign students doing OPT as compared to the number of workers in STEM occupations. If this parameter is chosen, OPT participants comprised about 2.5% of workers in STEM occupations with at least a bachelor’s degree, the report explained.
Rajiv S Khanna, managing attorney at Immigration.com told TOI: “Anecdotally, from our own clients, we see difficulty in hiring qualified people in STEM professions. Several of our clients have opened offices in Canada, because US immigration policies are implemented by the administration inconsistently... We can see no rationale for any change in policy making it more difficult for US trained students to remain in the USA and for US businesses to hire and retain qualified people.”
Subjects,universities that Indian students prefer
Indian and other international students at US universities, 2013-15
i) what they studied,
mainly at which universities
iii) the countries that they mainly came from,
iv) which subjects grew more popular.
Every sixth international student in the US is an Indian. They comprise almost 16% of the international student community and mostly study science, technology, engineering and mathematics