Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Economics of Study Abroad - Reflections

by: Jennifer Kumar

Reflecting on the current state of the American Dollar, I posted a link to an article from titled American Expats in Britain Suffer ‘24/7 Sticker Shock’. Since, I have located another article titled The Dollars and Cents of Studying Abroad. In reading these articles and being aware of the ever increasing market for ‘study abroad’ loans, I wanted to share my thoughts on the economics of studying abroad.

I admit years ago (1997 to be exact) economics was the main reason I went to India as a matriculated student rather than a Minnesota MSID exchange student. It was a very competitive program to enter, but I was accepted. However, had to decline later when the tuition rules changed and I was expected to pay twice the amount I was paying per year at my home college (the new total was over US$20,000). So, I did not attend that program and took a different route to India. Within two years, I became the first matriculated student from America to attend Madras Christian College. I also became the first American to graduate from the college with a M.A. Social Work two years after that.

How did economics factor into all of this? Well, rather than pay U of M $20,000 for a one year program that would not give me a degree, I paid $2,000 for a two year stay in India to achieve a Master’s degree. Within this US$2,000, I paid for my full tuition, room and board (three semesters on campus and one as a paying guest), mess (hostel food), in country travel and miscellaneous expenses. Within this budget I lived very well. The fight tickets to India and back were more costly than my degree and in-country living expenses! When I began working in U.S., I came to find out that I really saved a bundle as my colleagues had spent upward of US$50,000 for their social work master’s degrees here in U.S., and were in major debt.
So, economics played a different role for me than today's study abroad students. Today, the toll of economics is set against the fluctuating dollar, which seems to be loosing purchasing power around the world. This encourages students to choose the countries where the dollar can go father for daily living expenses. This may encourage students and colleges to take new approaches to study abroad. Of the many approaches that exist, I will discuss two:

1. Comparing prices based on total amount spent on tuition and living expenses once in country. Quoted from The Dollars and Cents of Studying Abroad, “For Middlebury College students, for example, a year in Florence costs around $37,000; at Santiago, Chile, it's $27,000.” This, of course, is an extreme example, but none the less quite realistic. I know this kind of comparison haunted me in my study abroad choice between India and Japan in 1997. Of course, India won out – and must I add for many other reasons beside economics!
2. New approaches to study abroad that expel the myth that study abroad is a diversion on the path to getting a degree and that Americans have to pay American tuition even in other countries where those expenses would be less. Twinnings programs allow for the smooth flow of academics so that a degree is the final outcome and saving money is inevitable. For instance, Rajagiri College in Kochi India has Twinnings Programs in various subjects and in various colleges around the world. Economics and the promise of a ‘foreign degree’ for many Indian and non-Indian students alike are the selling points. For more details on this see the Rajagiri Twinnings Brochure for economic breakdown – from the Rupees perspective.

Based on this limited discussion, there are different ways of approaching the economic quandary of studying abroad. It may seem that as the dollar fluctuates, study abroad is out of reach. I challenge this assumption because there are so many avenues to study abroad and with enough research and the right mindset there is a good study abroad fit for your academic, professional, personal and economic goals!

Share you experiences or other study abroad economic considerations below.

Note: The link I have found for MSID India appears to go to Jaipur and not Pune. I could not find the Pune program. If it exists, please send the link to me by leaving it in a comment below.

Related Posts/Sites: One list of India Study Abroad Programs


Vijay said...

What ever u have written is absolutely right. I am from same type of village those u mentioned in you blog. Do you believe i completed my total studies from bottom to top that means from zero to post graduation for 5000$ in current dollar rate(Including shelter and food). Now i am working in US.

And one more thing is Hospital expenses. Oho god!! Its too difficult here to access hospital. I got fever before 15 days. I asked for appointment and i got after two days. These two days i need to suffer. I went there and doctor told me its fever so give blood and result will come after one week. I asked him what i have to do till one week. He told u have to bear other wise i will give steroids is it OK? he asked me. I told no steroids please.

After one week i got results and doctor called me back and told results in voice mail. These 7 days i am suffering with fever. This lyme disease is not reduced with paracitamal tablet which is common tablet in india for fever.

The real problem is, to reach doctor. It has taken 48 hours to reach doctor in phone. Then again appointment which receptionist is not willing to give on same day until i shout and scream on her face on the phone. Finally to day i got the medicine after exatly 15 days suffering....

You go in india you will get blood test result with in half day and you will be under medication from next day onwards...Any fever malaria, typhoid etc..will be temporarely atleast relieved with in a week.

Jennifer said...

Thank you for stopping by and posting this, Vijay.

What you say is absolutely true even in my experience. It is one of many reasons I hate it and shudder when people refer to India as a 'third world country.' What does that mean anyhow? Does it make Americans feel superior or better to say that? I think that term should have been thrown away long back.

The one thing I must say about your story however, is that though you got your appointment after two days, that is lucky. Most people do not get even within a week. And don't talk about going to the emergency room! I've spent a half of a day to a whole day in there before being seen. How is that considered emergency?

Thank you for sharing your experience.