Indian students’ enrollment decline in the US universities

Number of offers and first-time enrollment of Indian students at the US graduate programs continued to decrease for the third year in a row by 4% and 3% respectively, according a report by CGS. This is in contrast to the continued interest of Indian students to apply for US graduate programs, as indicated by the number of applications. (See related analysis on Indian students here and here).

The number of applications from India for 100 largest institutions has increased by 3% while number of offers from the these universities has decreased by 3% (CGS). This indicates that while more Indian students are interested in studying in the US universities, there is lesser interest by the universities to admit them.

The most important factor for the decrease in offers by the US universities is that Indian students tend to apply to a very narrow set of institutions which are already having a significant concentration of Indian students. For example, 57% of all Indian students are enrolled at master’s level program in engineering, computer science and business (NSF). These programs already get large number of applications from Indian students and because of limited differentiation offered by the applicants, universities have to decline Indian students at a higher rate.

In addition, Indian students tend to apply to large, doctoral-level institutions which already have high number of Indian students. This is clear from the increase in the number of applications for 100 largest institutions by 3% as compared to a decrease for all other institutions by 8%. Indians are also heavily concentrated by geography.  More than half of all Indians are enrolled in seven US states and one out of four Indian student is in five metropolitan cities of New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and Washington, DC (IIE Open Doors) .

Indian students enrolling at the graduate level, also tend to rely heavily on assistanships and these are much harder to get because of the budgetary crisis universities are into.

The overall trend is that Indian students continue to consider US as the most preferred option but their preference may not be reflected in the total enrollment. This is because students are considering only a narrow pool of institutions and programs where they are unable to differentiate and hence are being accepted at a slower rate.

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