It's official now ! The number of students in the US on F-1 visas has seen a sharp drop this year. There were less F1 student visas for the US issued across India in financial year 2009 (Oct 08-Sep 09) than the previous year. In fact, 25,860 issuances in FY09 actually translates into a whopping 25% decline over the 34,510 issued last year.
Most experts and consultants feel that the fall in numbers of Indian students choosing to go to the US for higher studies is because of the fall in financial aid offered by institutions rather than any visa strictures.
"The US student visas are streamlined now and the reason for less students going to the US from India is probably because educational institutions are offering less financial aid in view of the economic slowdown. In fact, endowments in US colleges have been hit in a big way," says Poorvi Chothani, Mumbai based immigration lawyer and founder and principal member of law firm LawQuest.
The influential Open Doors report published annually by the Institute of International Education (IIE) with support from the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which is scheduled to be published next month, will provide a detailed break-up of the numbers of international students at colleges and universities in the US.
"Till 2007-08, India remained the leading country source for international students in the US. This was for the seventh consecutive year, with an increase by 13% to 94,563.
However, this year, in view of the slowdown, there could be a different trend," feels Ajit Motwani. India director of IIE.
And even as most experts agree that lower financial aid and scholarships are the main reason for the drop in number of Indian students going to the US, many are hoping that as the recovery kicks in the numbers will improve.
"Going to the US for higher education is an investment decision and in India we’re now seeing all the markets reviving and investors coming back. I think that next year, the number of students going to the US will again increase as many are now making decisions to go and doing the required paperwork," says Mumbai-based education consultant Karan Gupta.
And even in FY 09, many students have received substantial funding in a range of disciplines to study in America. "We have had success with several students receiving substantial funding as well. Many students who went on to pursue some new disciplines such as fashion marketing, neuroscience, pastoral studies, petroleum engineering, imaging sciences, oceanography and global development economics received financial assistance. In general, students applying for research programmes continue to receive funding despite the drop this year," says Shevanti Narayan, country co-ordinator at the US-India Educational Foundation.