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The class ceiling

A scrapped scholarship, paltry savings and no pay raise haven’t deterred Simran Channey from chasing the Great Indian Student Dream — studying in New York.

india Updated: Sep 01, 2009, 01:25 IST
Tasneem Nashrulla
Tasneem Nashrulla
Hindustan Times

Dear Laura


…the Commerce of Cinema module offered in the second-year Electives at Stern (M&E Major) is something that’s completely in allegiance with my plans for the future. I would, however, want to check on the eligibility criteria for applying for admission under the Stern Women in Business Program. Having worked for nearly 5 years, and travelled to some of the biggest international conferences across the globe, I’d like to at least try to see if I can make the cut for this scholarship, which would be hugely helpful for me…

Thanks much,

Simran Channey

Dear Simran,
…While we agree India is an exciting market for entertainment, and your resumé displays all the characteristics that we would otherwise look for in applicants, unfortunately we won’t be able to consider you for this specific scholarship program. I say this with much regret. However, given the market conditions across the globe, funding for us has become an extremely important issue. And hence we’ve had to take a call to discontinue this program for this year…
Best regards,

yuppie’s dilemma
This email spelt the end of Simran Channey’s (24) year-long dream of studying at Stern, New York University’s prestigious business school. Channey, an assistant marketing manager (overseas distribution of films) with motion picture company Studio 18, is the prototype of a yuppie — she’s hip, smart, independent and ambitious. She’s also from “a typical middle-class family”, living in a two-bedroom railway quarter at Vile Parle with her father who is a government employee, her homemaker mother and her 18-year-old brother. “My parents are focused on providing for my brother’s education because he still has a long way to go,” says Channey without a hint of resentment. “Plus, he’s pathetic in academics, so they require the money for donations,” she adds with a twinkling grin.

Which is why Channey never looked to her family for funding her dream, a two-year Commerce of Cinema course with a tuition fee of approximately Rs 45 lakh, a sum she couldn’t afford without a full scholarship. So she pinned all hopes on the Stern Women in Business programme that covers the entire tuition fee for three select female applicants across the world. A tough challenge, one that the accomplished Channey knew was achievable. Only to discover that the scholarship been scrapped this year.

Declared hit… by recession
“Such scholarships are usually funded by big financial firms in the US. Since they were badly hit by recession, they backed out this year,” says Channey resignedly. The recession ambushed her ambition in more ways than one. A busted year for Bollywood meant no appraisals or bonuses for Channey. Without a salary increment, she was unable to project a higher income to banks, needed to get a bigger educational loan. It seemed New York was too distant a dream.

Fast forward
But as the recession recedes in the US, Channey’s determination is mounting. Studio 18’s American parent company, VIACOM, has started sending promising employees to study to different parts of the world. “If I pitch my case well, they might act as my loan guarantor in the US or, better still, fund my education if I pledge loyalty to the company,” says Channey, a glimmer of hope in her voice. She is also hoping to prove herself to university scouts coming to India in November, as a worthy candidate for the scholarship likely to be revived next year. And as Bollywood picks itself up after the downturn, Channey anticipates an appraisal, boosting her chances of acquiring a bigger loan.

Saving phase
But there are compromises to be made. Plans to buy a car this year are on hold. The temptation to add to her prized collection of 40 pairs of shoes, owing to a “clinical shopping disorder”, is being curbed. Extravagant trips, like a recent one to Dubai, are no longer in the offing. Restaurant and phone bills are being cut drastically. Channey is finally learning to save.

You go, girl!
“There are many more avenues open to me than I thought. I will use my own earnings to fund my applications, travel and accommodation aboard,” she says with that easy confidence so symbolic of her generation’s go-getting spirit.

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