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It's the worst time to graduate, say Indian students studying abroad

Indians studying abroad in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic now also have to worry about a looming personal financial meltdown.

Last Updated: May 28, 2020, 02.48 PM IST
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New Delhi/Bengaluru: Indians studying abroad in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic now also have to worry about a looming personal financial meltdown. The loss of part-time jobs, the fight to find alternative accommodation after vacating campus hostels and running into a market without jobs after graduating are all adding to the financial stress of repaying education loans.

About 1.5 lakh Indian graduates will apply for a foreign visa this year, and barring highly skilled experienced graduates in fields like computer science, finance or research, others will struggle to get a job, experts said. “The job prospects here are at an all-time low and many of my seniors who graduated last year have been laid off,” said Bharath (who asked to use only his first name), a student studying in a Texas university who will graduate this year. “This makes it even more difficult for my batch to get a job.”

Bharath had to extend his graduation by an additional semester as the university had stopped taking EAD (employment authorisation document). EAD applications are required for Indians to find legal work in the US and the pandemic forced a halt in accepting applications for two months. Adarsh Khandelwal, co-founder of Collegify, an online test-prep platform for SAT, says that only about half the 1.5 lakh Indian students applying for visa this year, who are from highly skilled in fields like computer science, finance and research will find employment. The rest will face trouble.

A student of Deakin University in Melbourne, who did not wish to be named, said, “It’s the worst time to pass out. The jobs scenario was bad anyway.” Many jobs in Australia had already been lost and locals would be given priority, he said. Education loan company Avanse said it’s providing emergency top-ups for existing customers of education loans, according to CEO Amit Gainda. As per RBI guidelines, students also have the option of opting for a moratorium on their loans from June to August. However, students say this will only add to their loan burden as additional interest will be charged for those months.

“Students not only lose a great deal of money they are spending for education, but also the networking experience with other students goes for a toss,” said Prateek Bhargava, founder of Mindler, a career counseling firm. Students from several universities in UK, Australia, Canada and US said their colleges told them classes for the next semester will be held online. Cambridge University recently announced all classes for the coming academic year would be online.

However, most universities are not providing any refunds for the same, according to students. New students may have some respite, though. Both Bhargava and Khandelwal said students with admission to University of Melbourne, Leeds, Cardiff , CalTech and Cornell were getting financial aid packages to the tune of 10-20%. Khandelwal added many students were opting to defer their enrolment to the next year, and collecting credits through online courses meanwhile. A survey by Mindler found that 78% of students originally planning on studying at an overseas university are now likely to change their higher education plans.
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