Amit, a student of Indian Institute of Technology Varanasi, aspires for a career in computational mechanics. He is inclined towards pursuing MS in USA because of the excellent research opportunities that the US universities provide. Further, the R&D job prospects that he is unlikely to get in India excites him. He is planning to join the Fall semester of 2019. Like all other students who are keen to pursue higher study in the US, he is preparing for Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and TOEFL.
However, Amit belongs to a middle class family and he was a recepient of Merit-cum-Means scholarship at IIT. Now, he comes to know that on an average he has to apply around 8 US universities that comprises of a mix of moderate, safe and ambitious universities to get a fair set of options at the end.
While there are several other MS aspirants like Amit with BIG dreams, a falling rupee has added to their woes. On an average, the application fee to a US university costs around $75. GRE and TOEFL scores are mandatory to be sent to US universities. Sending GRE scorecard to each university costs $27 and TOEFL scorecard costs $20. So, on an average, an applicant has to spend $120 per university application.
On one hand, the scholarships to international students have scanty and the falling rupee has added to the woes of the students. While I was applying for the US universities in December 2017, the Rupee to Dollar price was pegged around 64. At the time of writing this article, the rate has gone above ₹70 for $1.
The figure below shows the tuition fees for various US universities as of 2017. US universities are known to hike tuition fees by 5%-10% every year. So, the prices are likely to go up.
So, if you are applying to 8 US universities, be ready to spend at least $1000 or ₹70,000.
The surge in the price of tuition fees due to the falling rupee will lead to a surge in your estimated budget. I was selected for an MS in Biomedical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. The tuition fees for the first year was $47,500. The cost of living specified by the university was $20,000. In order to get my I-20 (confirmation letter), I had to show to the university liquid fund of $67,500 ( ₹43,20,000 as of March 2018) in my bank statement. However, while the classes start in August 2018, I would have actually needed ₹47,00,000 to sustain myself financially. There is a straightforward ₹4,00,000 hike in my expenses per year.
While ₹4,00,000 may not seem to be a large sum for affluent and well-off families, but most students going for masters take hefty loans. After the recent RBI directives, the interest rate on educational loans has peaked to over 10% in most nationalized banks. Nationalized banks like State Bank of India (SBI) offers education loan at 10.65%, private agencies like Avanse and Credila provide loans at 12%-14% interest rate. the dollar to INR rate is predicted to rise up to ₹72.50, MS in the US no longer sounds a financially feasible dream.
Living Expenses In US
The average living cost for an Indian student in the US varies from $15000 per year in Texas to $25000 per year in Boston. Many Indian students take up on-campus part-time jobs like a library assistant, record keeper at the parking lot, courier delivery etc. that doesn’t bring much value to the resume.
A few fortunate ones get the Research Assistant (RA) and Teaching Assistant (TA) positions. The TA posts in most universities are reserved for Ph.D. students.
The Path Ahead
International students graduating from lower ranked US universities often don’t find jobs immediately after graduation. A student graduating from a top tier US university like Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern University, University of Minnesota etc. is usually able to pay off the debt incurred during the study in 2.5-3 years.
The US student Visa (F1) is issued for 5 years. Considering the above scenario, by the time a student graduates, he would hardly have any savings.
- The number of Indian students going for postgraduation to the US has been falling since 2016.
- Canada, France and Germany have seen a surge in Indian postgraduate students.
Ph.D. degrees in the US are usually fully funded and recognized across the globe. Unlike European universities, one can pursue Ph.D. in most of the US universities directly after B.Tech./B.Eng. The US is still the best destination for Ph.D. in a STEM field.
No wonder, the master’s degree from a Tier I US university and the job experience can get you a job in any part of the world. However, considering the huge costs incurred during the study and the diminishing number of H1B visas to Indians, one should reconsider his decision to pursue MS in US and search for affordable study destinations.