Currency and visa woes hit students’ study-abroad plans

The Indian rupee touched an all-time low against the United States dollar this week, raising concerns for students looking to study abroad in the US, as it raises their financial commitments, including through additional loans.

Some say they may have to choose a country where education is relatively cheaper, though concerns are emerging over visa delays in a large number of countries in Europe as well as Canada and Australia.

This week, the rupee reached record lows against the dollar, breaching the psychological 80-rupee level against the US currency on 19 July, pushing study-abroad costs much higher than two to three years ago just as study-abroad plans are returning to normal after the pandemic. Now, the additional financial burden is proving to be a deterrent.

About 60% of Indian students heading abroad for studies go to the US.

The dollar has strengthened against most major currencies in the past month. But India’s Minister of State (Junior Minister) for Finance Pankaj Chaudhary told the upper house of parliament, the Rajya Sabha, on 19 July that global factors such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict and soaring crude oil prices were the major factors for the weakening of the Indian rupee. The rupee has depreciated about 7% against the US dollar since the beginning of 2022.

Experts and students said that the concerns are genuine and aspiring students – and even those already in the US – will have to arrange for additional funds.

According to experts, roughly half of Indian students studying abroad finance their studies through education loans, mainly from commercial and national banks, and many will not have the capacity to arrange additional funds. They could face a lot of hardship.

Delhi resident Ajay Shukla’s son plans to head to the US for higher studies. Shukla said that “due to the continuous fall in the rupee, he will have to arrange an additional Rs300,000 [about US$3,756] to Rs400,000 this year to meet tuition fees, living and other expenses in the US.”

Nancy Tiwari is looking forward to starting her masters course in the US. However, the weakening of the Indian rupee has meant her financial planning has “gone haywire”.

“Everything, including tuition fees, living expenses and travel tickets, has become costlier because of exchange-rate volatility,” she said. “We have taken a loan from a bank to meet the cost of my studies in America. But with the dip in the rupee, we shall have to take an additional loan now.”

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