April 3, 2007
Written by C.N.
What do you get when you combine first, arguably the world’s best collection of colleges and universities who are looking to expand their reach and revenue, and second, a country that lacks enough higher education opportunities for its population that’s approaching one billion? As the New York Times reports, the answer is simple: U.S. schools are eagerly seeking to build “satellite” campuses in India:
Some 40 percent of [India's] population is under 18, and a scarcity of higher education opportunities is frequently cited as a potential hurdle to economic progress. . . . The growing American interest in Indian education reflects a confluence of trends. It comes as American universities are trying to expand their global reach in general, and discovering India’s economic rise in particular. It also reflects the need for India to close its gaping demand for higher education.
Among Indians ages 18 to 24, only 7 percent enter a university, according to the National Knowledge Commission, which advises the prime minister’s office on higher education. To roughly double that percentage — effectively bringing it up to par with the rest of Asia — the commission recommends the creation of 1,500 colleges and universities over the next several years. India’s public universities are often woefully underfinanced and strike-prone.
Indians are already voting with their feet: the commission estimates that 160,000 Indians are studying abroad, spending an estimated $4 billion a year. Indians and Chinese make up the largest number of foreign students in the United States. Madeleine Green, vice president for international initiatives at the American Council on Education, calls India “the next frontier” for American institutions, many of which have already set up base in China.
The article notes that there are still many administrative and bureaucratic hurdles to overcome in order in India, but the trend seems to be irresistible — American schools are salivating to get into India and to tap into that burgeoning pool of students (and of course their tuition money).
The way I see it, there clearly is a need for more higher education programs in India. This need exists among India’s middle and affluent classes, but also among its poor and working classes. That is, among many of India’s poor, a college degree is likely to be their best chance at escaping poverty and building a life for themselves and their families.
Therefore, however these American-Indian educational ventures are ultimately structured, I hope the American schools can look beyond the dollar signs dancing in their heads and remember that they have a social responsibility in India, just as they do here in the U.S. — to give anyone who wants a realistic and fair chance at completing a college education, regardless of their economic means or social background.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "U.S. Universities Look to Expand Into India" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/04/us-universities-look-to-expand-into-india/> ().
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