New Delhi — The economic crisis in the United States has tarnished the American dream for many Indians, who are opting for university studies and career opportunities at home, the Reuters news agency reported.
Vivek Wadhwa, an adjunct professor at Duke University and a senior research associate at Harvard Law School, described the “reverse brain drain” in a paper.
“When I joined Duke four years ago, nearly every student talked about wanting to stay and work in the U.S.,” he said. “Now the vast majority plan to go back home. A few want to work here to pay off their loans, but they don’t think they will be able to get jobs.” About 100,000 skilled Indian “returnees” will go home from the United States in the next five years, Mr. Wadhwa estimated.
In 2007-8 the number of Indian students going to American universities rose 12.8 percent, to 94,563, making India the largest source of foreign students in the United States.
But because of tightening credit markets and a global slowdown in economic growth, Indian students are also finding it harder to secure loans to study abroad, and many are less willing to take on huge amounts of debt.
The Educational Testing Service has reported that the number of Indian students taking the Graduate Record Examinations fell from 74,000 in 2007 to 55,000 in 2008. That could result in a significant decline in graduate applications to the United States, which absorbed nearly 80 percent of the more than 120,000 Indian students who went abroad last year.
“My initial plan was to do my master’s degree [in the U.S.] and look for a job too, but now I realize that there are no jobs and no funding, so I took admission in a college in Delhi,” a 23-year-old Indian, Rahul Dutta, told the news agency. Another student, Kripa Chettiar, said: “I was looking at doing a master’s in financial engineering at Columbia University.” But now, he said, he planned to forgo the Graduate Record Examination “because now there’s no point, as there is no financial aid available at all.”
Even students who have passed the examination are abandoning plans to study abroad due to lack of funds, said Rajiv Ganjoo, head of international education at Career Launcher, a test-preparation company in India. “It is a waiting game now,” Mr. Ganjoo said. “Students are looking at the recession, at how the colleges react to it and how the government reacts to it, before taking any steps,” he added.
“The brain drain has already begun to reverse,” said Mr. Wadhwa. “Now there are many magnets pulling the best talent. Before, the U.S. was where everyone wanted to go.” —Shailaja Neelakantan