CHENNAI: The sharp depreciation of the rupee has spooked the parents of students studying abroad. With the rupee on Friday plunged to a new low of 54.89 vs dollar, many of them are an anxious lot.
Most parents preferred to pay the term fees in installments and now are literally paying the price for it. They said they did not see it coming and were wondering how they would manage as they still had to contend with the living expenses even if they took care of the fees.
“Most students, who go overseas for higher education, are from middle or upper middle class families. Now, they find themselves forced into a hand-to-mouth existence. Increasing their allowance by even $50 is becoming more difficult,” said Chandrika Sagar, mother of Praveen, who is pursuing an MS in Thayer School of Engineering in the US.
In Praveen’s case, an educational loan covers his entire tuition fee unlike in India. Students abroad use downloaded study materials, borrow books and even get hand-medowns. So even though the tuition fee may not pinch, living expenses will.
Some parents who paid the fee at one go were relieved. K R Maalathi, mother of Pavithra, a student of the London School of Economics, said, “I couldn’t afford the collateral security the banks asked for giving my daughter an educational loan. So I paid her fees myself. I made the decision to pay the entire tuition fee at one go. At that time, I found it quite difficult but now I think it’s the best move I made. I avoided spending a lot more money unnecessarily.”
Overseas education agents said that though universities give a waiver for upfront payment of fees, most parents (70%) prefer to pay it in two to three installments. “With the rupee depreciating by more than 20% since January, the difference between last term’s fee and this term’s has run into five digits. I did not take this into consideration when I planned the annual budget,” said Siva Subramanian, whose son studies in Germany.
With the currency fall singeing pockets, students are now looking for free lunches. “My friends, who don’t have a kitchen in their house, head to the ISKCON temple for a free meal, because a simple breakfast costs around 10 pounds. Sometimes the academic pressure doesn’t allow us time to make even a simple sandwich at home,” said Priyanka Bhavanishankar, who studies at LSE.
Agents say this increase in expenses is unlikely to result in students dropping out, but could drive many to take up part-time jobs. “Most countries allow students to work a certain number of hours during the weekdays and full time during the holidays. The local population doesn’t want to work in the weekends, so many Indian students take advantage of this facility,” said Naveen Chopra, chairman of The Chopras, an overseas education agency.