U.S. Expecting 10% Increase In Student Visa Applications In 2024: Consul General

U.S. Expecting 10% Increase In Student Visa Applications In 2024: Consul General

In an exclusive interview, the Consul General highlighted that in 2023, 25% of all foreign students in the U.S. were Indian

Simple VishwakarmaUpdated: Monday, May 20, 2024, 10:31 AM IST
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Consul General Mike Hankey | FPJ

The U.S. expects a 10% increase in visa applications from Indians in 2024, Mike Hankey, the Consul General of the U.S. in Mumbai, told The Free Press Journal (FPJ) in an exclusive interview.

This estimate comes after the U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai received more than 1,700 visa applications during the ‘Super Saturday Drive’ on May 11.

Hankey also shared that the U.S. government is working with universities to take a range of measures to enhance students’ safety on the campuses in view of the recent incidents of death of Indian students in that country.

FPJ: What is the expected enrollment of Indian students in U.S. universities for 2024?

Hankey: It's difficult to predict the demand for U.S. visas, but we're expecting a 10% increase this year. In the last two years, the number of Indian applicants has been rising. The largest quotient of international students is from India for the U.S., with 268,000 Indian students. Last year, more than 25% of all students in the U.S. were Indian. We issued 160,000 student visas last year and expect a higher demand this year. However, we need to see who the applicants are and their reasons for applying before we can make any predictions.

FPJ: What aspects of the U.S. attract Indian students?

Hankey: I think there are various reasons why students enjoy studying in U.S. colleges. Firstly, they get to interact with a diverse student community from different parts of the world. Secondly, the college campus experience offers an ideal blend of rigorous academics and extracurricular activities. Additionally, students can apply their theoretical knowledge in real-life situations, which can help them secure employment opportunities in the future.

FPJ: What is the male-to-female ratio of students in the U.S.? What are the strategies to boost female applicants?

Hankey: Currently, only 37% of students studying in the U.S. are female. We are working towards increasing the number of female applicants across all fields of study, including sciences and humanities. We have various exchange programmes that focus on this. One of the ways we are trying to achieve this is through our Free Education USA Advising service, a free advising service that we provide. Students, parents, and families can avail of this service in Churchgate, South Mumbai, to explore the various study options, and scholarships available, and learn about the application process. This is a way to discover the 2,000-plus higher education institutions across the U.S. While well-known universities are popular, there are over 2,000 other institutions that people may not be aware of that offer affordable and effective educational opportunities. Recently, a university president from the U.S. visited and raised several million dollars to increase the number of female students from India. Last year, they almost doubled the number of female Indian students enrolled. Other U.S. universities and colleges are also interested in increasing the diversity of their educational pool by widening the pool of Indian students, especially women.

FPJ: Could you please share your opinion on the recent deaths and missing reports of Indian students?

Hankey: We are aware of the reports on the recent tragic deaths. Each of these deaths is a terrible loss for the families and friends affected. Our thoughts and condolences go out to all of them. We work closely with universities to ensure that a range of measures are in place to promote student safety, including the provision of ID cards for proper identification, campus police departments, mental health services, free shuttle transportation services around campus or off-campus locations, and more. Universities are vigilant in providing these services to help ensure that students have a safe and positive experience.

FPJ: What are the most common concerns expressed by parents?

Hankey: I understand that as a parent, you may feel anxious when your children travel abroad. However, it is important to note that nearly 268,000 Indian students are currently studying in the U.S. and are having a positive and productive experience on university campuses.

FPJ: Can you inform our readers about the accommodation facilities for international students?

Hankey: The choice of accommodation options for students in U.S. universities depends on the university and the college they choose. With over 2,000 institutions of higher learning in the country, there are different types of campuses, ranging from city campuses located in the middle of a city to large state schools in rural locations with dedicated campuses, as well as smaller private schools with dedicated hostels. Different accommodation options are available across U.S. universities, catering to different preferences. For students who prefer a large hostel and wish to integrate with other international students, such options are available. Students who prefer smaller apartments or an environment where the hostels are mostly occupied by American students will also find suitable options. It is important to note that the availability of accommodation options may vary based on demand and the type of courses the university offers.

FPJ: Could you shed light on some of the most popular courses in the U.S.?

Hankey: We have noticed that a lot of Indian students are applying for science and engineering programmes, which is excellent. However, we are also seeing an increasing number of students who are interested in business, humanities and social sciences programmes. We have observed that U.S. universities are also interested in learning about India's UPI system and digital payments. Under the NEP (National Education Policy) in India, universities on both sides can set up joint degree programmes, which is a great opportunity for students. They can learn about business practices from both countries and get a joint degree from both universities. This not only makes it more cost-effective for Indian students but also raises comfort levels for parents who may not be sure about sending their 18-year-olds abroad right away.

FPJ:  Are there programmes that focus on emerging fields like AI?

Hankey: The University of Pennsylvania is involved in a new initiative that focuses on critical and emerging technologies. These technologies include artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, space research and critical mineral research. The initiative involves cooperation between the governments of the two countries and aims to bring together universities, the government and the private sector to conduct targeted research on these advanced technologies. The national security advisors of the two countries, (Ajit) Doval and (Jake) Sullivan, have been discussing this initiative for the past few years and have given it a boost. The aim is to bring the research to the market in a way that can advance the strategic interests of both countries.

FPJ: Many Ivy League colleges and students are reportedly struggling to secure internships or jobs?

Hankey: The U.S. currently has a historically low unemployment rate, providing many job opportunities for students. For those who are not interested in traditional jobs, universities offer entrepreneurship programmes, which can lead to the creation of international businesses. It is inspiring to see how many Indian students have utilised their education to launch successful businesses in India or around the world.

FPJ: Do universities collaborate with local/government bodies to provide jobs to Indian students?

Hankey: It is common for university students to have opportunities that connect their experiences inside the labs with those on the outside. Companies often visit universities to find the best talents—individuals who are passionate, creative, and have innovative ideas that they can implement in their offices or factories. These companies may include consultancies as well.

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