25 Aug 2015 21:37 IST

The US degree dream turns costlier as rupee depreciates

Students looking to join a foreign university should budget for a 20 per cent cost escalation to account for exchange rate volatility

If you missed your chance to do an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Management last year, tough luck. Studying there this year will cost you at least 13 per cent more. The fees for a Wharton MBA was around ₹1.2 crore in 2014, whereas, this year, if you get admission to the coveted B-School, you will have to shell out close to ₹1.34 crore (as on August 25).

As the rupee depreciated to a new low of 66.7 against the dollar on Tuesday, students who dream of pursuing higher education in the US are feeling the pinch. The exchange rate for the euro against the rupee is now at 77.1.

The depreciation in the rupee will impact students more at the post-graduate level, says Jaideep Gupta, CEO and Founder of Univariety — an admissions abroad consulting firm.

“The US MBA globally is valued more than any other MBA in the world, thus students seeking quality education will not be deterred from taking up the programme because of rising costs,” says Gupta. “The larger bunch of students who may want to pursue the US degree from mediocre universities will, however, face issues while financing their education,” says Gupta.

If the student is not admitted by a top university, he/she may face issues while seeking an education loan, as banks may be doubtful about the students’ ability to pay back the loan in time.

Reaping ROI

Despite the ever increasing cost of an American education, more and more students are attracted to the country’s universities owing to its reputation and high return on investment. “The return on the kind of education I plan to pursue in the US is much more than its cost,” says Shiven Chawla, who is joining a two-year Masters programme in Cyber Security from the University of Washington in Seattle.

“Also, economic instability across the world should not have too great an effect if the remuneration is good and the currency of the country where I may get a job after the programme is strong.”

The Cyber Security programme will cost Chawla around ₹45 lakh for two years, after accounting for the scholarship he has received and the part-time job he plans to do. The overall cost of the programme is ₹70 lakh.

Most Indian students opt for engineering, science and technology or management education from the US universities.

Budget options

The cost of an European MBA, on the other hand, has fallen by more than 3 per cent (as on August 25). The cost of an MBA at HEC Paris was close to ₹41.5 lakh (as 25 August 25, 2014), which has now edged down to a little over ₹40 lakh.

Programmes from other countries, especially Singapore and Hong Kong, are benefitting most from the rising cost of US education. Some of the European programmes too are very popular now.

For instance, Akshay Sharma is opting to pursue a Masters in Management with a specialisation in Finance and Accounting from Germany. He is hopeful of getting admission in either International University of Applied Sciences Bad Honnef, Bonn (IUBH) or Goethe University, Frankfurt, for the programme.

“The economy is stable in Germany, as it’s not much dependent on the euro,” says Sharma. “I also opted for Germany because it gives you a chance to stay back for another 1.5 years after the completion of the programme and find a job to earn back the money you spent on education.”

The two-year MS programme at IUBH costs ₹20 lakh while the Goethe University course costs around ₹11 lakh only.

The Chopras - who are global higher education specialists - are the foreign university admissions consultants for Akshay and Shiven.

Safe margin

Exchange rates can barely deter the foreign degree dreams for students these days. The gaps get bridged with many universities offering various scholarships to match the fluctuations in exchange rates.

“Still, people looking for a foreign degree should keep a margin of up to 20 per cent in their budget to absorb the hike in cost on account of the exchange rate,” says Gupta of Univariety.

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