Hyderabad sends more students to US than Delhi, Mumbai


WASHINGTON: If the American educational system were to seek a mascot to advertise itself, a nerdy Indian grad student or geeky Chinese undergraduate would be ideal; a combination of the two would be perfect. It is no secret that tens of thousands of students from these two countries covet the American degree, as much as US institutions crave for the students (because of the money, brains, and prestige they bring), which is why American varsity officials often go on expeditions to these catchment areas. In a sense, it has long been thought to be a symbiotic relationship. Foreign students pour in billions of dollars into the U.S economy to get a prized American degree.

Whether their home countries benefit for it or whether the US does is something that is still up in the air. From all accounts, more than 50 per cent of the students return to their home country with a newly-minted American degree, but a large number stay back in the USIf corporate America has its way, every single science graduate should stay back, a Green Card or a work visa stapled to his degree. Increasingly, in a globalized world, they also go back and forth. To what extent and how well this business operates has long sought to be extracted and extrapolated from reports such as Open Doors, an annual study tracks the inflow of foreign students to the United States.

But the Washington DC think tank Brookings Institution has produced a report that builds significantly on Open Doors with a kind of granular data that provides arresting details -- and some correction to long held perceptions - including which countries and cities the students come from, how much they spend for their degree etc. For instance, it has long been thought Indians student population in the US is approximately 100,000 (based on Open Doors study) but the Brookings report, based on data from 2008 to 2012, puts the number of Indian F-1 visa holders (for full-time students) at 168,034, ranking it next to China at first place (out of 74 countries) with 284,179 F-1 visa holders. South Korea came third at about 110,000 F-1 holders. Saudi Arabia is a surprise 4th with 53,000 and neighboring Canada 5th at 51,000. 

From India's own neighborhood, Bangladesh (5319) has almost as many students in the US as Pakistan (curiously low at 5767). But the real surprise is Nepal, which got nearly 20,000 F-1 visas, compared to Sri Lanka's 4113. Another surprise is Iran with 9611 F-1s compared to Israel's 4588. Whether this speaks to great Israeli universities, poor institutions in Nepal, or the drive of its students, is hard to say. The Pakistani count seems surprisingly low but it is entirely possible they are being more tightly screened for visas. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia sent 53, 528 students to the US in the same 2008-2012 time frame (fourth highest in the list of countries after China, India, and South Korea) and who can forget that among the perpetrators of 9/11 were Saudis?

Overall, the report says, a record 21 percent of the world's students who are going abroad for their education came to the United States. Over the five-year period of 2008 to 2012, foreign students contributed $21.8 billion in tuition and $12.8 billion in living costs to 118 metro areas that are each home to at least 1,500 students. Just 45 percent of these students, however, extended their visas after graduation and got jobs, under the optional practical training (OPT) program, in the regions where they studied. OPT allows foreign students on F-1 visas to work between 12 and 29 months after they graduate from a US higher educational institution.

Columbia University, New York City.

A closer scrutiny of Indian student traffic flow provides some remarkable insights. For instance, Hyderabad (26220) was issued the most F-1 visas from India (nearly 30,000 when combined with Secunderabad). This is almost as much as Mumbai (17294), Pune (5551) and Delhi (8728) combined. In fact, there are more students in the US from undivided Andhra Pradesh (by a long shot when you add the 2000 each from Vijayawada and Visakapatnam) than any other state in India. Chennai (9141) and Bangalore (8835) are running neck and neck in F-1 recipients, with Ahmedabad and Vadodara together accounting for about 9000 F-1s. Incidentally, Seoul and Beijing topped the list of cities issued the most F-1 student visas with around 50,000 each.

The outlier here is Kolkota, which was issued only 3881 F-1s, but here is the twist in the tale. While a majority of students from other Indian cities came to the US for their master's degree, a large percentage (44 %) of Kolkatans came to the US for their doctorate. For Hyderabad, the comparable percentage of doctoral students was only 5 per cent, for Chennai 14 per cent. This would suggest a sound master's program in West Bengal that keeps students at home before they emplane to the US for their Ph.D.

The study also shows that two-thirds of foreign students are studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) or business, management and marketing fields, compared to 48 percent of USstudents. STEM preference is particularly pronounced among Indians students. Of the 168, 000 F-1 visa holders from India, an amazing 70 per cent came to the US to study STEM subjects, nearly 80 per cent of them in masters program and 11 per cent at the doctoral level. Only around 8000 students came to study social sciences.

Harvard University.

Here's the break up of what Indian students studied in the US between 2008 and 2012: engineering (53,153); computer and information sciences and support services (42,092); business, management, marketing, and related support services (31,796); biological and biomedical sciences (8,837); and health professions and related programs (8,672).

Overall, Indian students ponied up more than $ 5 billion in the 2008-2012 period to study in the US ($ 3.1 billion in tuition fees and $ 2 billion in living expenses) with students from Hyderabad and Mumbai coughing up $ 1.3 billion ($ 650 million from each city). How much -- or what -- India gets out of it (besides foreign exchange remittance from those who decide to stay on in the US) is an area that merits greater attention.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Lapping up this munificence from foreign students are 118 metro areas in the US that the Brookings report assessed as having the largest numbers of foreign students while measuring their monetary contributions to their economy. New York and Honolulu had the highest percentage (75 percent) of graduates working for a local employer. Seattle, Miami, and Las Vegas also ranked high for students who remained in their areas to work after graduating.

While large population centers, such as New York and Los Angeles, have high numbers of foreign students, small or mid-sized metro areas that are home to large universities have the most significant concentrations of these students within their broader student bodies. Ithaca, New York (home to Cornell University) tops the list with 71.2 F-1 students per 1,000, compared to 22.4 for the nation as a whole. Boston, Massachusetts and Santa Barbara, California also rank at the top of the list.

University of Southern California, Columbia University in NYC, and University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign (UIUC, which is jocularly referred to as University of Indians and University of Chinese) were the magnets for foreign students, each taking in around 13,000 F-1 visa holders. NYU, City University of New York (CUNY) and Purdue hosted around 11,000 each.

While this data suggests that foreign students typically flock to metropolises (New York region alone hosted more than 100,000 foreign students; LA and Boston more than 50,000 each), the foreign student inflow is also a boon to small university towns such as Lafayette and Bloomington in Indiana and Durham and Chapel Hill in North Carolina.

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The Brookings report makes no secret of the fact that it sees the foreign student inflow as an economic bonanza for the US that Washington and local metropolises should capitalize on. The report offers a two-pronged approach to help metropolitan leaders realize the full benefit of foreign students' local presence. These include: Leveraging foreign student connections with their home communities abroad to facilitate and deepen economic exchange.

"Foreign students," it says, "offer valuable knowledge of the business, cultural and societal norms of their city and country of origin and so can serve as a bridge to help globalize local economies."

It also advocates retaining foreign student skills by 1) developing programs to connect graduates to employers located in the school's metropolitan area, 2) helping local employers obtain the necessary visas for foreign graduates with in-demand skills and 3) advocating for immigration reform to make more visas available for graduates who want to stay in the US.


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