Deluge of grad students from India to the US, says study

Indian applications spike 22%; China down to 5%.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: A new survey of graduate schools in the US shows that the number of foreign students has risen at its fastest rate since 2006, while the country with the highest influx of students to the US is India.

The study was commissioned by the Council of Graduate Schools, which conducts this survey annually. The results came from 285 individual graduate schools that were polled. Arguably the most eye-catching statistic in the report is that graduate schools are reporting a 40% increase in enrollment by students from India. What makes the number even more jarring is that in the previous three periods of the study — 2009-2010, 2010-2011, and 2011-2012 — the enrollment rates were a mere -3%, +2% and +1%, respectively.

The reason given for India leading the pack in international enrollment within US graduate programs is that Indian students are looking to get away from poor job prospects in their home country. Although the cost of graduate education in the US can be exorbitant — particularly for Indians, since the rupee’s value has been floundering for most of this year — most Indian students see the cost as an investment in their future, essentially saying that the higher paying jobs they can get in the US down the road will offset the cost of their education.

A factor that may help explain the increase of Indian graduate students is that applications from the world’s largest democracy went up 22% this year, as reported by Offers of admission to Indian applications also spiked this year; after seeing anemic growth rates in the past few years, initial offers of admissions this year increased 27%.

China, on the other hand, seems to have done the complete opposite of India. After putting up enrollment rates between +20% and +22% for the past three study periods, this time Chinese students’ enrollment rate only rose 5%.

First-time international enrollment totaled 71,418 for the current academic term, representing a 10% rise from a year ago. The total number of foreign enrollment in US graduate schools now stands at 220,317, which accounts for 15% of all graduate school students throughout the country.

The study’s findings came as a relief to many graduate school officials, who earlier this year reported seeing a decrease in foreign applications. The study does not specify which fields of study students from each country tend to favor, but their numbers for “first-time international graduate enrollment by field” show a 17% increase in engineering and an 18% increase for physical sciences. Those numbers lead the pack by far, with arts and humanities coming it at a distant third with only 9%.

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