Major US colleges announced their tuition fees for 2004, and across the board there is a hike of almost 15 per cent; which is certain to hit Indian students harder than any other group, as they form the largest enrollment group every year in US colleges.
In 2003, nearly 90,000 Indian students enrolled in American colleges. The average annual tuition fee has now crossed Rs 14 lakh per annum as against Rs 12 lakh last year. The availability of financial aid has also come down in 2004. For many international students, financial assistance is necessary to be able to get an American education.
The 2004 costs of a university in America will range between $30,000 and $60,000 per annum or Rs 14 lakh plus on the lower side.
This large sum is very difficult to meet without some sort of assistance from the college. Indeed, most students on American campuses receive one form of aid or another.
However, a large portion of a college's financial perks have now been reserved for American citizens for the academic year 2004.
American academic experts are suggesting that students must broaden their search in order to identify institutions that charge reasonable fees.
Once the student has identified a number of colleges he or she is interested in, they must ask the college for as much material as possible.
Beyond the application itself, other literature such as the college handbook, brochures, course lists, etc, can provide a lot of information about the college, and may help with the application itself.
Once the student has all of this information, he or she should try and narrow down the choices to roughly 10-12 colleges, divided into three major categories based on the 2004 tuition levels.
The first category of "dream" colleges should consist of the hardest colleges to get into, Ivy League colleges being a great example.
If a student is able to get into one of these, the administration will most likely insure that you are able to afford the college, whether it is through extra loans, work-study jobs, or some other arrangements.
Of course, certain colleges require proof of the students' ability to fund his or her education before admittance; such facts should be noted before applying to such a college. The second category of schools consists of colleges that one can probably get into, and that should provide a large amount of financial aid.
But in the newly announced fiscal plans for 2004 it appears that the Aid level will significantly come down.
The third category of "safety" schools, where entry is "guaranteed," or rather, where the student's credentials far surpass the average requirements for entry, which is important for students from India who may not be able to pay the increased fees.
This safety net will insure that one has a backup plan, should he or she not gain admittance to the top colleges on the list. This restriction of colleges and division into categories serves two purposes.
Firstly, one gains more time to finish each application, a very important factor. Secondly, most colleges require an application fee of around $20-50 restricting the number of colleges the student applies to; they can insure that they are presenting the best application possible for their money.
These steps should hopefully make it easier for a prospective student to select which colleges he or she is interested in, and to gain a handle on what an application to those colleges will entail.