Indian Students' ROI on US Education is Low


By Rajkamal Rao 

So what exactly is this buzzword, Return on Investment (ROI)?  It is quite simply a measure of the output you get for what you put in.

We believe that in recent years, just as the number of international students going to the US for higher education has increased, the average foreigner has been getting a raw deal on his/her investment.  In other words, the Return on Investment (ROI) is rather poor.  It means that students select sub-standard universities which may not be a match for their skills or competencies.  And from this point onwards, most things go downhill.

First, let's start with the costs - that is, the amount international students have to put in to get a US degree.  Studying in the US is expensive.  In fact, an August 2013 study by HSBC - reported in many newspapers around the world - says that the US is the second most expensive country in the world for international students.  We agree with the HSBC report - we too calculate the US cost of attending school to be around $36,000 a year.

If cost is an impossibly high constraint for you, an excellent option may be Germany.  Note in the HSBC graphic below that you pay practically nothing in tuition fees to study in Germany.  Here's an excellent summary in the Wall Street Journal for undergrads seeking to study in Germany.  Note that there are many universities which offer what are called "International Programs" in which you can get your degree where the medium of instruction is English, although learning German is still highly recommended.  For a full list of German schools which offer English-instruction based degrees, click here.

But what about working in Germany while studying?  According to the University of Esslingen, job opportunities depend on visa stipulations.  In most cases, International (non-EU) students may take up jobs in the private sector for up to three months per semester without the need for a work permit. Students may take up full-time work for 90 days or part-time positions (up to four hours per day) for 180 days. This regulation is also stated on the residence permit/visa. During the semester, students are allowed to take up jobs with working hours of up to 19 hours a week. During the semester break, students may work full-time but only for a maximum of 13 consecutive weeks.

Student assistant jobs at participating university institutes ("Hiwi" jobs) are more flexible regarding working hours, as the 90/180 days full- and part-time regulations do not apply. As a student assistant, you are allowed to work up to 19 hours per week throughout the year.
The availability of "Hiwi" job positions is limited and can vary strongly depending on projects and budget.

If you are interested in studying in the EU, note that the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) is responsible for the management of certain parts of the EU's funding programmes in the fields of education, culture, audiovisual, sport, citizenship and volunteering.   If you want to pursue Masters or Ph.D courses across multiple EU states,  you should check out the Erasmus Mundus Masters Courses that often offer scholarships.  Students should contact the consortium offering the Masters Courses for more information and application procedures.

The NY Times has an excellent article about studying abroad - while this piece largely applies to Americans and undergraduate studies, international students should consider pursuing leads mentioned in the article to see if they can find suitable programs or qualify.

 In fact, with college costs in the US on the rise, the truth is that the ROI for even American students studying in American universities has actually been going down for some years now.  In a brilliant piece in the Economist called "Higher education - Not what it used to be", the author says that "a (US) degree has always been considered the key to a good job.  But rising fees and increasing student debt, combined with shrinking financial and educational returns, are undermining at least the perception that university is a good investment."

A May 28, 2013 article in Forbes magazine describes the same situation in personal terms.  Quoting a McKinsey study, the writer points out that half of all grads from four-year colleges are working in jobs that don't require a four-year degree.   The study found that 40% of grads from the nation's top 100 colleges couldn't find jobs in their chosen field. For social sciences it is only 36% of these grads and  42% of those grads who studied visual and performing arts.  

And on Jan 3, 2014, the Wall Street Journal carried an excellent article: Degrees of Value: Making College Pay Off; For Too Many Americans, College Today Isn't Worth It.  "America's higher education problem calls for both wiser choices by families and better value from schools. For some students, this will mean choosing a major carefully's emphasis on measuring college education in terms of future earnings and employability may strike some as philistine, but most students have little choice. To make college a good value again, today's parents and students need to be skeptical, frugal and demanding."

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1 comment:

  1. Interesting article. Thanks for sharing this post. The management of certain parts of the EU's funding programmer in the fields of education, culture, audiovisual, sport, citizenship and volunteering. I would like to thank you for sharing your thoughts and time into the stuff you post!! Thumbs up!


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