Financial crisis unlikely to impact US varsities

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OPTIMISM: According to experts the financial crisis will see only a marginal decrease in the number of students going abroad for studies.
OPTIMISM: According to experts the financial crisis will see only a marginal decrease in the number of students going abroad for studies.


Private universities in the US have their own sources of funding independent of the government

The financial catastrophe in the seat of the global economic superpower -- United States of America -- has caught the world by storm. The collapse of several banking and insurance giants has eaten into the revenues of several sectors across the global business spectrum.

College campuses in India have been abuzz with rumours about possibilities of the US government restricting student intake and cutting down funding to international students in wake of the crisis. Is the situation so scary that prospective students will find it difficult to get funding and fee waivers?

Educational consultants in the State like V. Gouripathi, General Manager of Visu International, doesn’t foresee any cuts in the funding to universities. “If you look into the kind of effect that took place, it is mainly in the banking and finance sector. The companies that provide funding are (usually) hardcore manufacturing, electronics or automobile industries. These are the commitments they made very long back and … are (usually) spread over a period of time say five to six years.”

Likening the current panic to the one that followed in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks, former Chief Consular Investigator (Anti-Fraud Unit) with the American Embassy in New Delhi Himish Bhatnagar says, “Similar questions were expressed after 9/11 when a section of the US government proposed to restrict the number of international students coming into the US universities.”

“However at that time,” he points out, “the university lobby fought for the admissions of international students.” International students are major source of funding for most of the universities as they are charged four times the fee of local American population or green card holders.

Asked about the impact the $700 billion infused by the US government into the stock exchange might have on the State-funded universities, Mr. Gouripathi is careful to point out that the amount is just a support given in the form of a loan and not a waiver.

Outlining the funding pattern in US, he says State-funded universities receive funding from their respective State governments and not directly from the Federal government. Rest of the universities are private universities that have their own sources of funding independent of the government. Mr. Gouripathi claims that the financial assistance for students applying for Spring-2009 has so far remained stable.

‘Not so bad’

Vishwanath Narayanan, a student of Missouri University of Science and Technology agrees.

“The funding scene is not so bad yet,” he says. Sekhar Ganji, who graduated this year while stating that the impact of the crisis is still not being felt says, “As far as I know there is not much impact of the financial crisis on the universities yet, but I think it is going to reflect soon.”

“There are perceptions among the academia that funding from the industry might come down in the near future. That is what is predicted but nothing is known yet,” Mr. Narayanan says.

Job scenario, predictably, is acute. “Graduation job scenarios are kind of looking to be tough,” Mr. Sekhar says. Mr. Narayanan concurs.

“Full time jobs have definitely been hit as the economy is on a downswing. Though for part-timers, (it is) not so much I believe,” he told The Hindu EducationPlus. “The really good graduates are finding jobs across all sectors while the average kinds and those below are having a tough time,” he adds.

Slight drop in numbers

According to Mr. Gouripathi there might be a slight reduction in the number of students going to the US this Spring season compared to last year.

The rise in dollar value against rupee (from around Rs.38 a dollar last year to around Rs.50 now) could dampen some students from applying to US universities, he says. “Even that number will decrease only slightly in the range of maybe 1,000 to 2,000,” he avers.



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