Are you worried about how to pay for the cost of education in an American university? Well, take heart, the costs need not be as high as you think. Over the years thousands of middle class (and even economically disadvantaged) students from India have managed to pursue Master’s and doctoral programs in American universities. The only reason why so many of them have managed to do so when the cost of higher education in American university can range from 20 to 40 lakhs is the generous financial aid given to students by American universities. With such financial assistance, which is given in a variety of fields, the cost can come down to 15 lakhs or even less!
Of course, such assistance is not guaranteed: first, you have to show that you are an academically excellent student. But, it you do so, you stand a good chance of being awarded one of the many kinds of financial aid that are available. Below is an explanation of some of the forms of aid that American universities give to their students.
Several universities award assistantships in the form of teaching and research assistantships to masters and doctoral program students. These require awardees to perform certain services for a specified number of hours in a week. The awards are usually for the current semester and may be extendable depending on awarding requirements of the department and the funds available with it. Continuation also depends on the student’s maintaining a good academic record.
Teaching Assistantships (TA): these involve assisting a faculty member in teaching (mostly, elementary lab courses), conducting tutorial/problem-solving sessions or grading answer scripts. Teaching assistantships may also provide students opportunities to work outside their department in areas like Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics depending on their competence and interest in the subject. Many universities assess these through a test.
Research Assistantship (RA): students interested in working on research projects in the university should contact the faculty in whose work they are interested. The selection may involve an interview/written exam to test your aptitude, knowledge and skills.
Both teaching and research assistantships require students to work up to 20 hours a week and carry a stipend and tuition waiver depending on the extent of the award (the full 20 hours or less). In general even a 10-hour job substantially reduces tuition and compensates for living expenses. The student’s performance in the duties assigned is closely monitored. The student is also required to maintain his academic performance in the graduate program and show good progress in his research work.
Universities may offer tuition waivers to a few outstanding students a after the first semester i.e. waivers are offered depending on the student’s first semester performance. Students who are offered tuition waivers do not have to pay tuition fees or pay reduced amounts. In other words, waivers may be full i.e. they cover the entire fees for a semester or a partial i.e. they cover the fees for only a certain number of credits.
In-State Tuition: This is the tuition fee charged to the residents of the state in the US. Certain universities, particularly Texas, offer a nominal scholarships to international students including in-state tuition. The award can be a substantial saving since in-state tuition fee is about 40% of out-of-state tuition.
Graduate School Fellowships and Assistantships
These are offered only to outstanding students. The student is nominated by their graduate program. Generally, the awards are given to students admitted to PhD programs in the department and, as a rule, exempt students from any specific duties. The students are expected to perform full-time research and may be occasionally required to perform teaching duties for a semester as a part of their program.
International students in US universities are allowed to work on campus. Campus jobs may include working at the university’s cafeteria, bookstore, library, or health club, or within the university’s administrative offices. The payment is usually $6 to $8 per hour and you are allowed to work for a maximum of 20 hours per week.
Students are also allowed to take up internships after completion of at least two semesters of full-time education in an area which is directly related to their field of study, and which can be considered a part of academic training. Carefully review information about these options and consult the International Students’ and Scholars’ Office for clarification. In the US the internships are of two types:
Curricular Practical Training during the course of the program usually in the summer semester after the first year and Optional Practical Training, after the completion of the MS program. These are governed by rules framed by US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and require appropriate authorizations.
Merit-Based Scholarships from the Indian Government and Other Indian Trusts:
Doing some research and finding out information about scholarships offered by Indian Government and other trusts can come in handy. The Government of India (GOI) offers scholarships for advanced education to SC and ST students and these are administered by the Social Welfare Departments of respective state governments. GOI also has a scheme of supporting higher education in areas where India lacks facilities for such education.
There are also a number of private trusts like Inlaks, India Foundation, Lila Poonawala Foundation, J N Tata Trust, Aga Khan Foundation and K C Mahindra Scholarships which offer substantial amounts to students going to top ranking universities. (There are also the Cambridge Trusts if you want to apply to Cambridge). However the trust may have certain specific criteria which have to be met by the applicant. The announcements for these scholarships appear in leading newspapers.
Education Loans from Banks
Another important and major source is the Education Loan scheme of banks which offer loans up to 20 lakh rupees at competitive interest rates and extended periods of repayment.