Aug 30, 2013 09:48 AM IST | Source: CNBC

For many Indians, degrees abroad now unaffordable

With the rupee depreciating consistently and touching a new low of 68/USD last week, many Indians are facing a problem of unaffordable foreign degrees.

For the thousands of Indian students pursuing college degrees abroad, the thrill of starting a new chapter in their lives is being doused by the crash in the rupee, which has dramatically pushed up academic fees and the cost of living.
Shaym Mehta, a 26-year-old Mumbai national who recently began a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at Insead in France, said this could not have come at a worse time.

"The one year you do your MBA is when the rupee is it an all-time low, it feels horrible," Mehta, who has taken out a euro-denominated loan to fund part of his 60,000 euro college fee.

Plans to return home to find work after he graduates next year have also been put on hold, as it would be much more expensive to service the loan with on a rupee-denominated income. The rupee has fallen 28.4 against the euro over the past three months.

"Initially, I thought I would return home and work after completing the program. But since I have to pay back a loan in euros, the plans have to be reassessed. It`s an extremely weak option at this point," he said.

Mehta says he now has less disposable income, and will likely need to cut back on discretionary spending during his time abroad. "There`re still a lot of rupees that I need to convert into euros for day-to-day spending, on housing rent, car rentals. I need to re-budget and reallocate."

Falguni Jhaveri, who is currently in New York to send off her daughter at a college in the city, said she and her husband budgeted for tuition fees when the rupee was at 55 against the US dollar - 25 percent stronger than Thursday`s trading level of 68.8.

"That`s huge considering it costs us USD 75,000-USD 80,000 a year to send our daughter to college, including living and travel expenses. It`s a lot of money, it`s unplanned for. We`ll have to reevaluate how we are going to take care of the fees," Jhaveri, who lives in Mumbai, told CNBC.

"The problem is also uncertainty and where it`s going to be next. You can`t plan," she added.

According to Arvind Kumar Singhal, chief executive of consultancy Technopak Advisors, the number of Indian students traveling abroad to study will likely suffer a notable decline, if the rupee doesn`t recover. An approximate 200,000 Indians set off for overseas degrees every year, according to Technopak.

"For students who are already overseas, there`s nothing they can do about it. This impact will happen in the next academic year, even if the rupee stabilizes, we will see a significant amount of impact with more people deciding not to send their kids overseas," he said.

Mumbai resident Miloni Shah, who has spent the past four years saving to pay for business school in the US which she plans to enroll in next year, fears the money she has set aside now may not suffice.

"I have been saving up for business school, but if this continues, and the rupee goes to 75-80, my savings are going to be wiped out and I may need to take out a student loan," 27-year-old Shah, who works at a private equity firm in the India`s financial capital, said. "It`s really frustrating."

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