Donald Trump’s visa curbs hit growth of students seeking loans to go to US

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NEW DELHI: With visa restrictions and other hurdles in place for migrant job seekers, the number of Indian students seeking entry into US institutions by securing a loan rose barely 5% year-on-year to 1.96 lakh in FY18, according to a report. In the Obama years in comparison, the numbers had gone up sharply between 2013-14 (1.2 lakh students) and 2016-17 (1.86 lakh).

America despite being the top destination for Indian students is not getting as many applicants as earlier, says the HDFC Credila survey. Number of student visas issued by US has fallen 40% to 42,694 in 2018 from 74,831 in 2015.

Interest in going to the US has dipped considerably since Trump came to power; instead loans to study in non-US markets grew at 20-30% in FY18. In the Obama era, loan disbursements to students travelling to US had grown 25-30%.

And it’s not just the US with its hostile policy regime, many are also steering clear of the UK while they knock at the doors of institutions in Canada, Australia and Germany — which have a far more liberal climate.

From just 38,000 loans granted to students in 2014 to Canadian colleges, the number has more than quadrupled to 1.71 lakh in 2018. Destination Australia has also seen a massive hike in number of student loan grants with more than a 100% increase to 1.08 lakh. Germany saw a 83% increase in the last five years to 17,570 loans granted in 2018. The UK, which has followed in the footsteps of the US in embracing an increasingly protectionist regime and anti-migrant rhetoric, has seen growth flattening in the last 5 years. The number of loans granted in 2014 (19,750) remained unchanged in 2018.

“Parents have started exploring various other countries for their higher education abroad which include Canada, Ireland, Australia, Germany, France, Netherlands etc,” said Ajay Bohora, co-founder and MD, HDFC Credila, which has disbursed Rs 8,300 crore in education loans and seen 33% growth.

While it’s tough to land a visa and job in the US, there are still STEM students who want to pursue this route —because of new developments, say industry players. “Earlier, there was 65,000 H-1B visas and 20,000 for advanced degree students. Starting from the current year, the computer generated selection process will pick 65,000 from the entire pool of cap subjected H1B petitions. Those not accepted and eligible for the advanced degree exemption will be transferred to the master’s cap pool for a second chance at selection — that means international students with advanced degrees can try their luck at the H1B lottery twice,” says Bohora.

Another positive to trying one’s luck in the US, is the unemployment rate, which hit a historic low (not since the 1970s) of 3.6% -3.8%; the unemployment rate for those with bachelor’s degree or higher is 2.2% as of February 2019.

However, some countries which offer students more scope for securing a job, are proving to be more attractive destinations, say bankers. For instance Canada’s Student Partners Program (SPP), where students typically get a work visa of 3 years is a lure. “We have seen number of student applicants increase for countries such as Ireland, Germany, France, Netherland, etc. We have also noticed a steady flow of students who prefer going to Australia, New Zealand etc. for courses, where fees are relatively lower in equivalent INR terms.”

But it is disheartening to note that only the upper creamy layer of students are able to secure loans. Indian banks reduced the number of students they were lending to 24.3 lakh in 2018 from 25.5 lakh in 2017.





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