December 13, 2021 6:47:47 am
The Covid pandemic, an ensuing lockdown and the economy being in doldrums has failed to dampen the spirits of Indian students, particularly those from Punjab, from fulfilling their dreams of studying abroad, records show.
Representatives of various banks in Punjab told The Indian Express said that there have been no let up in queries from students seeking loans to pursue courses abroad, even as the Covid pandemic swep through the country.
Figures obtained from the Home Affairs Departments of Canada, UK, the USA and Australia show that around 2.81 lakh students received study permits from India in 2020 and in the first and second quarter of 2021, out of which 60 to 65% students (nearly 1.68 lakhs to 1.82 lakhs) were from Punjab.
Every student who gets a study permit needs to finance his/her fee and living expenses for the first year, which costs around Rs 13 to 20 lakh, depending upon their courses as well as the country that they are choosing.
The rest of the course fee is usually arranged by the students on their own, who mostly take up part time jobs for the same, thereby helping local businesses and contributing to the growth of the economy of that particular country.
During 2019-20, Indian students contributed around $6.6 billion to the Australian economy, said Leverage Education, a platform which provides complete services to students pursuing international education and careers in around 250+ universities in various countries.
Canadian home department figures revealed that around 2.92 lakh Indian students have got study permits in the country in the past three years, with 85,700 students getting permits in 2020.
In 2021, around 67,000 study permits have been issued by Canada from January to April, Visa Facilitation Service (VFS) for Canada sources said.
“Around 1.40 lakh study permits for students were issued by Canada in 2019, and 85,700 in 2020. This year the figures are expected to touch the 1.75 lakh mark from India,” said Ludhiana-based Can-Able immigration Consultants, which is headed by Khilandeep Singh. Singh, who also runs an International English Language Testing System Centre, added that out of the total number of students going to Canada, the percentage of students from Punjab is between 60 to 70%, which translated into a huge outflow of money from the state of Punjab. He said there is still a huge backlog of applications that Canadian authorities are yet to clear.
Singh further informed that the UK, which has relaxed norms even when Covid was at its peak, saw 50,076 students from India moving there in 2020 and 37,000 in 2019. Of these, around 70% were from Punjab only.
“Likewise, Australia saw 23,354 students, and the USA saw 14,971 students, respectively, getting permits in 2020. A majority of them were Punjabis,” he said.
Gurpreet Singh, of of i-Can consultancy, which deals with students going to study in Canada and other countries, said, “If we take the figures of the UK from September 2020 to September 2021, then the country has issued study visas to 90,669 students, which is a 197% jump from the pre pandemic year of 2019.”
He added that the money for the initial year to study abroad is managed by students in various ways, through different sources.
“Students sometimes take loans (if they are eligible) from the bank or put up their properties – like agricultural land, house – as collateral. They also borrow from their relatives or knock on the doors of private finance companies,” said Gurpreet, adding that sometimes even farmers borrow money from their Arhtiyas for this very purpose.
Sonali Sharma, the manager of Punjab National Bank in New Dana Mandi (New Grain Market), Jalandhar, said that they had been receiving 10-12 inquiries almost everyday for ‘student loans’, following relaxation in travel restrictions by several countries. She said that the bank carefully poured through each application before accepting or rejecting it.
“The student can borrow his/her entire course fee from the bank at the rate of around 8.5 to 8.8% interest,’’ said Sonali, adding that these loans are only available to students who are going to pursue bachelors or Masters degrees abroad. Diploma courses were not covered.
Numbers, however, showed that around 85% of students going aborad was for diploma courses, something for which loans were difficult to come by.
“ These students manage their funds privately,” she said, adding that the first year’s fee has to be deposited in advance for studying in almost all foreign universities.
A senior bank officer, dealing with study loans in State Bank of India, Nakodar area branch, said that his bank too had seen a spike in number of queries for higher education loans, ever since the vaccination process picked pace.
A manager in HDFC bank in Jalandhar, on the other hand, said that they are extremely careful in vetting applications and sometimes even reject applications when they think that the borrower may default.
A manager in a private finance in Adampur area stated that they are giving loans against agricultural land, which farmers then use to send their wards abroad. He informed that in the past year they had doled out loans to nearly 60-70 farmers in their area against their land, which was used by them to send their children to study in Canada, and the UK.
“When I had to send my daughter to Canada last year, I tried obtaining a loan from every bank. However, I was told that there is no policy to fund Diploma courses. We then arranged the money from our own sources, and by borrowing from the relatives,” said Satbir Singh from Kapurthala.
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