Study in USA - Value of US higher education
Study in USA - Education ties between India and the United States have grown exponentially since the first Indian arrived on a US university campus in 1883. Encouraged by her husband, the 18-year-old Anandi Joshi overcame several odds to earn a degree in western medicine from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (now Drexel University College of Medicine) in 1883. The tide of Indian students going to the US on F-1 visas started to increase in 1960s and 1970s, but it was in the latter part of the 20th century that the ranks of students going to the US began to swell, crossing the 100,000 mark in the 1990s.
From 2001-2011, India held the number one spot for sending the largest number of students to the US, but from 2012-13 onwards, China displaced India as the number 1 sender of foreign students to U.S. The 2015 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange released in November 2015 announced that Indian students in the US increased by 29.4% to a record high of 132,888.
Study in USA: the “most-wanted” destination for higher studies
The question of “value” of a US degree comes up whenever a student or family considers education in another country. Though there is no standard yardstick to assess the worth of studying in the US, there are several factors, such as quality, flexibility, diversity, that add sheen to studying in the US. The then President Barack Obama in his January 2011 State of the Union Address said, “We’re home to the world’s best colleges and universities, where more students come to study than any place on Earth.”
Quality of US institutions:
The US was one of the first countries to recognize the value of transnational experience and quality considerations in their academic offerings. US universities have re-defined quality education by offering flexible, well-structured and globally attuned curricula. Indian students at the postgraduate and doctoral level are drawn to the US for an opportunity to participate in high end research that has the possibility to get converted to significant outcomes, such as publications in refered journals or filing of patents.Another quality marker of US education is it prepares students for the job market. For Indian parents, this fact helps to make the decision to invest in sending their child for further studies. Vinita Sethi, a parent who sent her two sons to study in the US, said, “My elder son, Ishaan, graduated from Brown University and today he runs his start-up with backing from Angel Investors and Shivang, my younger son, who will graduate from Dartmouth in 2017, is already making plans for the future.” The increase in employability quotient of US higher education is one of the important reasons that make the country a much sought after destination for international students from across the globe.
The American education system is highly flexible and offers a variety of programs and formats of education to prospective international students. There are specialized institutions, such as, art and fashion institutes, business, medical, dental and law schools for students interested in studies in specific fields. The students can make the best decision about the right choice of US university based on their academic and professional interests.
Multi-disciplinary studies that combine two or more areas are attractive options – these include programs such as bio-informatics, environmental engineering, financial engineering, engineering management, law and management and so on. Currently, majority of Indian students visit US to study disciplines under the STEM field; however, there is a growing trend among Indian students to pursue studies in disciplines that are not widespread in India. These include fields, such as actuarial sciences, art and culture management, higher education administration, environmental management and health administration. The curriculum offered at US institutions offers the flexibility for students to take courses on credit that are not their mainstream areas of studies. These could include complex subjects as astronomy, creative disciplines, such as dance, filmmaking, puppetry, to emerging fields like social media. For those interested in liberal arts, it is a commonplace to hear about students graduating with majors as diverse as music and mathematics. Kunal Kaushik, who has taken admission to Vanderbilt University for fall 2016 with full financial-aid, said, “I took a gap year to prepare a stronger application to study in the US as the ecosystem allows you the flexibility to follow multiple interests.”
The issue of “diversity” is an important philosophical belief that has shaped the quality and character of American higher education. This rests on the assumption that diversity of students, faculty and institutions will enhance the competitiveness of the US higher education ecosystem. There is a range of institutions (6,500+) that award degrees and vocational certificates; American college students are diverse in age, race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and academic interests; and data from the US Department of Education suggests that college faculty is becoming more diverse. There is increasing trend of foreign citizens as faculty on U.S. campus. The diversity of students and their orientation and interests enriches the experience of Indian students studying in the U.S.
Despite increases in the price of attending college, the international student population on US campuses continues to grow rapidly in both size and diversity. This suggests that education still pays and is definitely worth it despite rising costs. American colleges and universities are supported by diverse revenue sources, such as, tuition, state government appropriations for public institutions, income from endowments, philanthropic support from individuals and foundations and some limited aid from the federal government. For Indian students, the average cost for a four-year undergraduate degree program, depending upon the location, would range from US$20,000-80,000. While financial aid is limited for undergraduate studies, the possibility for scholarships, tuition waivers and assistantships increases for graduate, especially doctoral programs.
Opportunities for practical work experience
US visa regulations allow international students to gain work experience in their field, both during their education and after. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) options provide international students valuable work experience which benefits them - both in terms of actual experience as well as monetary compensation and possible job offers at the conclusion of their programs.
The American education experience prepares students with skill sets which help them to meet the changing needs of the workplace. Students need to carefully understand their own learning style and personality before making decisions pertaining to the type of university and location they want to study at. For further information and guidance, students can contact EducationUSA centers across India. EducationUSA is the official source for US higher education, supported by the US Department of State. EducationUSA provides accurate, current and comprehensive information to students interested in applying to US universities. Students and the public can visit our website to know more the EducationUSA at Educationusa.state.gov and www.usief.org.in
Dr. Diya Dutt is Deputy Director, United States India Educational Foundation (USIEF)
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