UI, U.S. Colleges More Accessible to Indian Students

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By Jordyn Reiland, The Daily Iowan

U.S. colleges are seeing an influx of students from India due to the highly competitive atmosphere in Indian education.

At the University of Iowa, the Indian population has remained the third-largest international student group on campus for more than 10 years because of that.

Freshman Alisha Lal said she chose the UI because the pre-medicine programs in India are too tough.

“India’s medical program is difficult and competitive compared with the programs in the United States,” Lal said.

According to an article in the New York Times, students are traveling from India to universities in the United States because the competitive nature in their home country makes getting accepted to college much more difficult.

UI Dean of International Programs Downing Thomas said many UI students from India have had that experience.

“A large population [of students] go to college or want to attend college, but the capacity available is very limited,” Thomas said, “[Therefore], only a tiny percentage of students can go to college in India.”

In the fall of 2010, the UI enrolled 337 Indian students; 374 such students enrolled in 2009.

Though this year showed a slight decrease, India remains the third largest foreign nationality on campus — after South Korea with 351 students and China with 1,312 students.

Deven Patel, an assistant professor of South Asian studies at the University of Pennsylvania, said the increasing Indian population extends past the undergraduate level.

“There has always been an influx of students from India at universities, especially at the professional level,” he said.

And according to the Times article, U.S. universities have become “safety” schools.

“Indian students speak English, if not natively, then close to it … and [this] makes it easier for them to integrate with classes and daily life, while adding additional diversity,” Thomas said.

Some of the UI’s peer institutions, including Indiana University, the University of Minnesota, and University of Wisconsin-Madison, also have large populations of students from India.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison enrolled 440 graduate and undergraduate Indian students during the 2010-2011 school year.

Laurie Cox, assistant dean and director of international student services, said the University of Wisconsin is nationally recognized for its international student enrollment and smaller scale recruitment.

The UI maintains a consistent enrollment of Indian students by sending UI officials on recruitment trips to India. Recruiters visit specific high schools and speak with ground contacts in India to promote the university.

“Many of our ground contacts are UI alumni,” Thomas said.

Thomas also said the International Knowledge Center — located in India — is a resource the UI uses to engage the Indian higher-education population.

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