Studying abroad costs life savings - myths busted

There is no denying the strong parental instinct that drives us to provide the best possible start to the professional life of our children. Giving our child access to the amazing courses and programs of study available across the world for their college education seems to be the best way to achieve it. 

However, these things come at a cost. A foreign education can be incredibly taxing on a family’s savings. Many of the most popular educational institutions that Indian students flock to charge incredibly high fees for tuition to international students. Living expenses around these universities are also often very high, meaning that a middle-class family might have to pay substantially over Rs 1 crore to provide their child with this opportunity. At this price point, the education might come at the cost of the family’s financial health. Depleting your life’s savings for your children might seem noble, but there are other uses for that money that are just as important and noble.

However, this conundrum emerges from a series of myths that coerce families to make incredibly unfortunate choices about their finances with respect to studying abroad. There are a variety of options and alternatives that offer much better value for money while providing the quality education that your child needs for a bright future.

Myth 1: Studying abroad is always prohibitively expensive

The most popular study-abroad destination for Indian students – colleges and universities in the USA – take on average Rs 88 lakh from international students pursuing a 4-year course. Adding the cost of accommodation, living expenses, and supplies take the cost of that course up to an astronomical Rs 1.4 crore. For most middle-class Indian families, this is not an amount that can be paid for comfortably without making some major sacrifices. With so many students going for these courses and their parents left footing the bill, the impression has turned into a prevalent myth – that sending your child to study abroad will inescapably deplete your savings.

The reason that this is a myth is simple – there is no requirement for you to send your child specifically to the most expensive educational institutions in the world.

The most prominent universities in the UK and the US charge higher fees to their international students, and these funds are an important source of income for them.

While the quality of the education they provide is acknowledged to be outstanding, there are other institutions in the world that can offer comparable results at a lower price point than the Ivy League. Countries like Australia, Canada, and Japan house institutions that offer similar courses of study at a fraction of the cost, and are cheaper to live in. 

Myth 2: The more expensive, the better the education

While there is no denying that the leading colleges and universities in the US offer an incredible educational experience, it wouldn’t be true to suggest that they have a monopoly on quality higher education. Varsities in other countries often have great faculty, well-constructed and conceived curriculum, and are as highly ranked and appreciated as their US counterparts. In fact, in the prevailing political climate, the US and UK have become less receptive to foreign students and immigration. In that context, getting work at the end of an extremely expensive course might become harder because of the difficulty in getting a work permit in either of those two countries. As such, you could be getting a much better opportunity for your child by considering these alternative options, which would be less taxing upon your savings.

Myth 3: There’s no alternative source of funding

While the number of these opportunities might be limited, most institutions offer scholarships and financial aid for students. These are provided on a need or merit basis, and if your child has a compelling application with good grades, they can even study with all the tuition being waived! Additionally, a wide network of philanthropic institutions like educational trusts, alumni networks, and even governments offer financial support in the form of grants, fee-waivers, or scholarships. 

Another alternative is taking an education loan. Financial institutions and banks often provide education loans to students looking to study abroad on attractive terms, with a long repayment period and relatively low rates of interest. As a parent, you can act as a guarantor of the loan, and your child can start repaying it after they are done with their education and are gainfully employed. In this manner, you can safeguard your savings, provide your children with the education that they desire, and simultaneously inculcate a sense of responsibility in them.

 (The writer is Chairman and MD at ESS Global- Study Abroad Consultant)

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Studying abroad costs life savings - myths busted

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