The weakening rupee is sapping the confidence of those seeking to pursue higher studies abroad. Faced with the prospect of increases in tuition fees, air fare, food and living expenses, many are dropping their plans or looking for funding avenues beyond their parents' bank deposits. For one, scholarship applications to philanthropic trusts have increased.
With the rupee hovering around 60 to a dollar, overseas education costs have gone up 15-20%. In absolute terms, overall expenses are projected to increase by as much as Rs 4 lakh, said industry body Assocham in a report. Fees for undergraduates in US universities are about $30,000 and $40,000 for post-graduates.
Ajay Sharma (22) from Mumbai, had planned to pursue a master's degree in telecommunications at the University of Colorado. "But I had to drop the plan as the rupee's tumble has played havoc with my budget," he said.
There are scholarships, though not everyone gets them. But seeing the huge rise in applications, some foundations have increased scholarship amounts by 33%, or roughly Rs 1 lakh per student. "We have done so taking into account currency fluctuation, which has pushed up studying costs abroad considerably," said Farrokh Rustomji, CEO of R D Sethna Scholarship Fund. One of the oldest scholarship programmes in India, it has received 250 applications for the August-September academic season. It gives up to Rs 4 lakh to a candidate.
"There is last-minute panic among students. We have been getting quite a few calls although our deadline has passed," said Urvashi Devidayal, president, American Alumni Association.
The 45-year-old body, to which industrialists like Nadir Godrej and Vijay Raheja contribute, gives Rs 1 lakh to each candidate to cover travel and personal expenses.
Trusts give different types of aids: pure and loan scholarships, gifts and travel grants. Some expect students to pay back so that the grants can be carried forward. The good thing is that they are not reducing scholarships. "The rupee's fluctuation does not affect the number of TOEFL scholarships. Later this month, we will award 20 scholarships worth $3,000 each and one $10,000 scholarship to deserving undergraduate and graduate students to assist them in pursuing their dreams," said Becky Ford, manager (external relations) at New Jersey-based Educational Testing Service.