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Indian Students Reconsider Plans for US Education

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Rahul Kolli gave up his plans to study in a US university and opted to go to one in Ireland due to fears that new policies to keep jobs for Americans will make it difficult to work in the US.
Rahul Kolli gave up his plans to study in a US university and opted to go to one in Ireland due to fears that new policies to keep jobs for Americans will make it difficult to work in the US.

Rahul Kolli was happy when he gained admission to Michigan Technological University in the United States.

Kolli, a 23-year-old from southern India, studied engineering before graduating from college. He wanted to continue his education by studying data analytics at Michigan Tech.

He had the same goal as tens of thousands of Indian students: study in an American university, work in the United States for a few years and perhaps stay there.

But in November, Kolli decided not to go to the U.S. school. He chose instead to study at a university in Ireland.

His main concern was U.S. President Donald Trump’s promise to protect jobs for Americans. Kolli thought that after spending a huge amount in the United States, he might have difficulty finding a job here.

Many college students in India, like those studying at the Sri Venkateswara College of Delhi University, want to pursue postgraduate studies overseas. (Photo: A. Pasricha / VOA)
Many college students in India, like those studying at the Sri Venkateswara College of Delhi University, want to pursue postgraduate studies overseas. (Photo: A. Pasricha / VOA)

Kolli says many of his Indian friends at American universities urged him not to come to the U.S. They said some companies had told them U.S. citizens would be preferred for new jobs.

“Before Trump, yes -- they were asking me to come,” he said. “But after Trump (was) elected, they were like: ‘Think over your decision. I don’t suggest you come to the U.S. Why don’t you try some other country?’”

The number of Indians studying in the United States has grown in recent years. More than 200,000 Indians attended an American college or university last year. That is the second-highest number of foreign students from one country.

The lack of high-quality universities in India forces many students to consider foreign countries for both undergraduate and postgraduate studies.

For many years, the Preston Education Consultancy in Chennai sent almost all students who used its services to the United States.

Ilaya Bharathi heads the company. He says about 40 percent of students it works with chose such countries as Ireland, Canada, Germany and Australia even after gaining admission to an American university.

“It’s basically what is called in the market the ‘Trump effect.’ They are reluctant to take the U.S. as an option now,” says Bharathi.

He notes growing nervousness among both Indian students and their parents. They are worried about a possible change in American immigration policy. They fear such a change could make it difficult for foreign students to stay and work in the United States.

Hundreds of engineers at the premier Indian Institutes of Technology have always aspired to go to the US for postgraduate studies but education consultants say some are rethinking those plans. (Photo: A. Pasricha / VOA)
Hundreds of engineers at the premier Indian Institutes of Technology have always aspired to go to the US for postgraduate studies but education consultants say some are rethinking those plans. (Photo: A. Pasricha / VOA)

Bharathi says most Indians studying in other countries are computer software engineers. He says many have decided to study in Ireland, which is a growing information technology center in Europe.

Ireland now permits students to work for two years after they have completed their education, instead of one.

In addition to worries about jobs, some Indians wonder whether the United States will continue to be a safe and welcoming place for foreign students and workers. Many of them have heard anti-immigrant statements from President Trump and his supporters.

Such worries have grown after two Indian engineers were shot last month in the state of Kansas. The death of one of the two was reported throughout India.

The suspected gunman is a U.S. Navy veteran who shouted “get out of my country” at the men. Police are investigating the shooting as a possible hate crime.

Kavita Singh operates FutureWorks Consulting in New Delhi. The company helps Indian students gain admission to colleges. She says she is hearing questions about the United States that she has not heard before. The questions have included, “What is the environment going to be like on campus?” and “Is it going to change and is it going to be different?”

Singh says this concern is greater among those students hoping to receive an undergraduate education in the U.S. Students from richer families often do not want to work and live in the U.S. And they fear the environment may turn more hostile.

“Some even say we only want to look maybe now at colleges on the East and West Coast which voted blue (Democrat) and we are not really sure we want to look at the middle of the country,” said Singh. She earned a Masters of Business Administration degree in the United States.

Education experts say many postgraduate students are watching how policies on students staying to work in the country develop under the Trump administration.

But not everyone is disheartened. Shraddha Gulati, a student in a Delhi University college, says she wants to study in the United States.

“There are so many good colleges there -- the top 50 and 100 -- and not in India,” she said.

I’m Alice Bryant.

Anjana Pasricha reported this story from New Delhi. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted her report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

graduate - v. to earn a degree or diploma from a school, college or university

prefer - v. to like someone or something better than someone or something else

undergraduate - adj. relating the first years of study at a college or university - usually in reference to a bachelor's education

postgraduate - adj. relating to the years following a bachelor's degree

option - n. the opportunity or ability to choose something or to choose between two or more things

campus - n. the area and buildings around a university, college, or school

degree - n. an official document and title that is given to someone who has successfully completed a series of classes at a college or university

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