How falling rupee is affecting Indian students abroad.


The Indian falling rupee hit an all-time low of Rs 72.54 against the US dollar on September 6 — a fall from less than Rs 65 per dollar six months ago. Students headed abroad, or already enrolled overseas, are bearing the brunt of this sharp devaluation.

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The fall in the value of Indian rupee against the US dollar has hit the Indian students studying in the US. (Reuters File)

Hit by the falling rupee, Indian students in the US are taking on part-time jobs, eating out less and cooking at home; parents are worrying about the toll this is taking on their children and the time it is taking away from their studies.

Some parents have multiple children abroad and are changing their savings and investment plans to accommodate the 7% to 9% hike in expenses; The Vedaks from Mumbai, for instance, have two sons studying in the US. As the rupee continues to fall, from less than Rs 65 per dollar six months ago to more than Rs 72 per dollar, they are considering cancelling their plans to attend their elder son’s convocation.

“We had accounted for a rupee value of Rs 70, to be on the safe side when planning the funding for both our children,” says Prafulla Vedak, who runs a customs clearance and forwarding business. “When the rupee started to fall, we waited. We hoped it would stabilise. Instead it fell further. Now, we are paying this dollar rate, and we are paying the late-fee penalties because we waited. We are trying to plan for what we will do if the situation worsens, and if it doesn’t improve, we will have to cancel the trip.”

Meanwhile, two weeks ago Ankur Vaishampayan, 22, studying at the University of Texas, began cutting down on fruits and vegetables. “I will buy the cheapest stuff possible and not mind the toll it will take on my health,” he says. “Most of my friends eat out to save time. But I cook now to save money. Pumpkin and round gourd are the cheapest vegetables. I have them four times a week.”

Nimish Bandekar, 23, had taken a loan of Rs 30 lakh to help pay for his Masters in mechanical engineering from Wayne University in Detroit. With the rupee crashing, he’s now worried it won’t take him through the fourth semester. “I plan to work part-time. My parents will have to arrange additional money somehow,” he says. Nimish had gotten his loan sanctioned in April, when the rupee value was Rs 66.

The Indian rupee hit an all-time low of Rs 72.54 against the US dollar on September 6 — a fall from less than Rs 65 per dollar six months ago. Students headed abroad, or already enrolled overseas, are bearing the brunt of this sharp devaluation.

For students headed abroad, or already enrolled overseas, this is translating into a hike in expenses of 7% to 9% — for Bandekar, that’s an additional Rs 60,000 just in tuition. Many students abroad are worried.

Meanwhile, Ritesh Vedak, studying in the US, has a brother studying there too.

“Neither of us had taken a loan. Our parents send money for tuition every semester and now all their financial estimates have been disrupted,” says Ritesh. The 23-year-old student left India two months ago for a two-year Masters in biomedical engineering course. “They are pooling in their savings for us,” he says. With the new value of the rupee, his course fee has shot up by over Rs 12,000 per semester.

Students enrolled in universities with early payment deadlines are now glad they paid their entire fees in advance. “At Georgia Institute of Technology, our fee deadline was in August. I exchanged my currency for approximately Rs 68 to the dollar,” says Nandan Bedekar, 21, who is doing his Masters in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

His course fee has nonetheless gone up by Rs 60,000 over the next three semesters. So the rupee fall still rankles. “There’s also rent and other expenses,” says Bedekar. “I can’t eat at restaurants now. I might have to take up cooking.”

In the UK too, the devalued rupee has seen a slide, from about Rs 86 against the GBP a year ago to about Rs 95 today.

“I have to think twice before buying essentials. Even with groceries, every purchase is done after a lot of thinking and calculations. It drains you,” says Anagha Kannan, 21, who shifted to Leeds a week ago to pursue her Masters’ degree in Public Relations.

Meanwhile, for students in India with ambitions to study abroad, even the process of applying to institutes of higher education is set to get more expensive. Eligibility tests like GRE, GMAT and TOEFL cost more with the devalued rupee, as do university applications, which vary from Rs 3,500 to Rs 14,500.

“A student typically applies to multiple colleges, so it’s all adding up,” says education consultant Karan Gupta.

Under such circumstances, adds study-abroad consultant Kimberly Dixit, co-founder and president of The Red Pen consultancy, less expensive destinations such as Australia and Canada are likely to become more popular. “We are hearing of students spending extra hours at their part-time jobs to earn more. Some have had to cancel their trip home,” she says.

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