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Vandana Ramnani, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, August 16, 2011
How will the recent economic developments in the US impact the country’s education segment? In an interview to HT Horizons Adam J Grotsky, executive director, USIEF, talks about the Fulbright scholarships and more. Will the budget to be allocated for the Fulbright-Nehru Programme get impacted by Standard & Poor’s decision to downgrade the US long-term sovereign credit rating? 
The Fulbright-Nehru budget is in place for the 2011-12 academic year. Funding has been steady from the previous academic year. Approximately $6.7 million has been allocated for grants and related expenses. We hope funding will remain steady in the fiscal year 2012 as well.
 
What is the latest on the Obama-Singh 21st century knowledge initiative that was launched formally on July 19, 2011
The Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative is the result of an agreement between the heads of state of the United States and India in November 2009. The Initiative has a funding of $10 million — both countries have contributed $5 million each towards this fund. This is perhaps the most exciting initiative we’ve taken up recently.

USIEF will select four to five institutions a year and allocate grants of up to $250,000 to American universities who wish to deepen collaboration with an Indian university. The grant will be for a period of up to three years. The intent will be to spend $1 million each year for the next five years. The application deadline is November 1, 2011. As for the Fulbright programme, in the current fiscal, 138 Indian scholars will visit the US and 144 American scholars have been selected  for India.

under the programme in India
On July 4, 2008, the US and India signed a historic new Fulbright agreement, making India a full partner with the United States in the governance and funding of the Fulbright Programme. The Fulbright programme has always been a bi-national effort. For the current fiscal, 138 Indian scholars will be visiting the US and 144 American scholars have been selected under the programme in India. Some of the important areas under this programme are public health, urban and regional planning, science and technology, journalism and mass communication, peace and confict resolution etc. Last year, 121 Indian scholars visited the US and 132 American scholars visited India under USIEF-funded Fulbright-Nehru grants.
 
Is there an increase in the number of undergraduates from India wanting to pursue studies in the US?
The US higher education market is primarily (almost 70%) a market for Indian graduate students and that has been the trend for some time. Having said that, we are seeing more interest from undergraduate students from India. This is from the data that has emerged from information sessions and the inquiries that we have been received from Indian students. Data released  by the US Embassy has revealed that the number of Indian students who have applied for visas to study in the US is up 20% over last year. However, one cannot say how many were undergraduate students and how many were graduates.  Nevertheless, there has been a slight increase in the number inquires from Indian students interested in pursuing undergraduate studies in the US.   
 
Has there been a shift in the attitude of Indian students? Earlier, they preferred to join only the famous American universities. Have you seen a trend wherein there is more interest in second-rung and community colleges in the US?
USIEF’s intent has always been to advise Indian students to select the ‘best fit’ academic institution in the US and only accredited institutions of higher learning. I feel community colleges are an excellent opportunity to begin higher education and to get a sense of the US education system and eventually get a transfer to a four-year degree college. There are approximately 1,200 regionally accredited associate degree-granting colleges with over 11 million students in the US studying in the institutions. USIEF or EducationUSA does not endorse any ranking or ordering of any institution in US higher education, but community colleges certainly offer a great window of opportunity for higher education. More information about the community college system can be obtained by accessing the “Profiles”  guide at www.aacc.nche.edu/study-in-america. It’s not always true that only students who cannot get into a university, apply to community colleges. Many times students are not sure what they wish to major and for them community college is a good option as it allows them the time to come to terms with what they want to focus on.  Once they’ve decided on a major, they can transfer to a four year college and focus on what they want to specialise in. Affordability is yet another reason. Community colleges are definitely cheaper than most four-year state colleges or private universities. Their quality too is quite good. There are very few scholarships available at the undergraduate level though. Minimum requirements remain the same -  reasonable SAT and TOEFL scores.
 
Any new initiatives?
We’ve hired new advisors for EducationUSA in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata to help get the word out to Indian students about US higher education. We’re also increasing our efforts to reach out to our alumni. There are 18,000 Fulbright Fellowships alumni both in India and the US.

Interviewed by Vandana Ramnani