Indian students in the US had an economic impact of over $8 billion in 2016

Rahul Choudaha
Rahul Choudaha

Nearly 70% of all Indian students in the US were enrolled at master’s level in STEM, says Dr. Rahul Choudaha of StudyPortals. The Indian student population is concentrated in California, New York, and Texas, he adds. 

A just released study takes a bird’s-eye view of the global economic impact of international students. As the American Bazaar reported, due to a growing anti-immigrant sentiment in this country, the international student inflow to the United States may be somewhat waning at the moment. Now a new study by StudyPortals, a Netherlands-based company that provides education choice platforms to students, throws some light on the economic impact of international students globally.

The report looked both at the direct economic impact of international students in the country they arrive in to study, as well as at the indirect and induced impacts.

Author of the report and executive vice president of StudyPortals Dr. Rahul Choudaha, who is an international higher education expert, spoke to the American Bazaar about the report and how the United States was the biggest beneficiary of the economic impact by Indian students.

 Tell us about your research, why did you think a research on international students and the impact was important in times such as these. 

The analysis of the report is set in the context of anti-immigrant rhetoric in the US. In 2016, the estimated economic impact (direct, indirect, and induced) of over 970,000 international students in the US was $57 billion. In the last three years, international students considering to study in the US have been facing increasing uncertainty and challenges related to visa constraints and escalating costs. The report highlights that erecting more barriers for international students is a misguided policy not only in terms of loss of educational benefits but also from the sheer economic impact. Overall, international students are the victims of the uninformed political rhetoric leading up to 2020 Presidential elections.

Tell us in brief about some of the most shocking findings of your report?

One of the most striking findings of the report is the estimated economic impact (direct, indirect, & induced) of over 300,000 Indian students was $17.8 billion in 2016. The United States was the biggest beneficiary receiving effect to the tune of $8 billion, followed by Australia and the UK receiving $2.7 billion and $1.2 billion respectively.

Another key finding of the report shows that Indian students show significant potential for increase in demand especially at the undergraduate level. However, much of the growth in demand may go towards destinations with lower tuition and/or living costs.

There has been a downward swing in International students coming to the US. How does this affect the US and how does it benefit other countries where the international student inflow may be going?

The analysis shows that the US is already falling behind the global competition. For example, between 2010 and 2016, the number of Indian students studying in Australia and Canada increased by nearly 125% and 240% respectively as compared to just 30% for the US. Both Australia and Canada created positive post-study work rights for international students.

In sum, international students bring diversity to the learning experiences and dividends to economic development. Therefore, national policies must become more welcoming for international students rather than constraining.

Tell us about Indian students coming to the US for studies. What are their expectations from an international study destination and do they opt for certain courses over others?

Majority of Indian students are highly price-sensitive, value maximizers who are continually trying to search for options that lower cost and increase career opportunities. And, hence, they are more sensitive to immigration and work policies. They prefer to pursue master’s programs in computer science or engineering which allows them to get three-year Optional Practical Training (OPT) to gain work experience and recover part of their investments. Data shows that in 2018, nearly 70% of all Indian students in the US were enrolled at master’s level in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics) programs. They were also concentrated in three of the nation’s largest states that are also home to some of the finest educational institutions in the country — California, New York and Texas.


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Chuck Grassley opposes DHS move to extend OPT to 6 years for students on F1 visas (June 9, 2015)

F1 visa students may be allowed to work for 6 years in the USA, like H-1B visa holders (June 9, 2015)

F1 visa students may be allowed to work in the US for 6 years after February 12, 2016 (August 21, 2015)

F1 visa students shouldn’t be allowed to work for 6 years in US (January 18, 2016)

20 more Indian students on F1 visa barred from going to California by Etihad Airways (December 24, 2015)

Regret deportation of Indian students on F1 visas: US ambassador Richard Verma (December 24, 2015)

Sushma Swaraj demands explanation from State Department on deportation of Indian students on F1 visa (December 22, 2015)

Air India cancels booking of 19 students on F1 visa bound for San Francisco (December 21, 2015)

F1 visa: 595,569 were issued in 2014, with 173,062 of those refused (September 14, 2015)

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Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions plan to end OPT for F-1 visa students, restrict H-1B visa (March 1, 2016)

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