American Dream – Bringing it to Reality (Part I)

The United States of America presents a wide range of exciting opportunities for higher education and employment to ambitious young Indians.  However, this indisputable fact was not widely accepted in Pune, when I first pointed it out, way back in 1996.  Punekars were mostly skeptical of it..  Actually, this was not entirely surprising. In those days, someone travelling to the USA was such a rare occurrence that it made news.  However, now things have changed quite dramatically.

When I founded Dilip Oak’s Academy in 1996, only 24 students had enrolled.  Eight of them went to the USA eventually. Gradually,  the number grew over the years and, in 2016 alone, we sent as many as 1,500 students to a wide variety of the universities in the US.  These students were not from Pune alone. Many of them hailed , but even from small cities and towns in the hinterland of Maharashtra, such as Sangli, Vita, Satara, Belgavi, Kolhapur, Amaravati and Aurangabad. Some belonged to  and other states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat as well.   Now, in 2017, we expect the number to climb to an unprecedented 1,800 at least. We have come a long way, indeed.

Looking back, clearly, the two Bills, Bill Gates and Bill Clinton, opened the floodgates to American education for Indian students.  Bill Gates needed intelligent young computer professionals and Bill Clinton desired stronger ties with India.  Since then, the rising number of Indian students travelling to the US has completely shattered the myth that an American education was exclusively either for the most intelligent or the super-rich.

I am often quizzed about the perceived preference for the US when it comes to higher education or employment.  In my opinion the chief reason is the immense size of the US economy.  While the Indian economy amounts to US$ 2.3 trillion, the size of the US economy, the largest in the world, is a whopping US$18 trillion. As you would see, the US, which accounts for only about 6% of the world’s population but contributes 24% (almost a quarter) of the world’s total GDP, which is mind boggling.  This has made the USA a magnet for immigrants from across the globe.

Most Americans cannot afford a university education.  One reason for this is that many American parents expect their children to become self-reliant immediately after school. Typically,   American parents do not pay for their children’s university education. Young people aspiring for higher education have to raise the money themselves.

Besides, a big chunk of many of the American high school graduates prefer to study psychology, music, languages, etc., over  science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which have collectively become known by the acronym STEM.  The humanities rank much lower on the demand scale in the job market.   American corporations have historically had a short supply of STEM-trained professionals. Therefore, they have had to depend on immigrants particularly from populous countries such as India and China, to meet this ever-growing demand gap. India and China have traditionally accorded top priority to education.  Even economically backward communities in India, for instance, somehow find the means to educate their children as best they can.

To meet its insatiable need for technically trained manpower, the US grants about 85,000 H1B visas (work visas) every year.  This annual influx of immigrants is quite negligible when compared to the country’s population which is a sizeable 320 million.  Having said so, it must be stressed, that without this import of human resource, the American corporations would not have progressed so much.

The US attracts intelligent and creative persons from all over the world because it is a “melting pot” of great diversity.  In its constant social churning, race and religion, class and culture, do not matter. Only merit is the overriding consideration for career advancement or upward social mobility. What immigrants have found to their benefit is that merit is duly rewarded without any prejudice whatsoever. The American system catapulted Mr. Sundar Pichai to the helm of affairs at the head of Google in recognition of his contribution to the organisation. Similarly, and Mr. Satya Nadela was picked to head at the helm of Microsoft for his proven merit.  A South African, Mr. Elon Musk founded Tesla, the electric car company in the US ; Steve Jobs’ father was a Syrian immigrant.  The US offers to anyone who has a dream and potential, the opportunity to live that dream, the Great American Dream.

Americans have a penchant for innovation. Venture capitalists in the USA have historically displayed an enormous ability to take risks when they invest in innovative ideas.  Almost 80% of the ideas they invest in turn out to be duds, but the rest of the ideas that work catch on and rapidly evolve into great and innovative corporations like Amazon and Facebook.  And these more than makeup for the loss.

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