Besides importers and economic managers in this dollar-hungry country, an unfavourable rupee-dollar parity has been a major source of concern for thousands of Pakistani students pursuing higher education in the United States.
Officials at the United States Educational Foundation (USEFP) say that every year over 4,800 students from Pakistan visit America, the world’s most developed country of our time, to obtain bachelors, masters and PhD degrees in different academic disciplines.
These students, mostly studying on self-finance basis, pay thousands of dollars under the heads of tuition and other fees. Even if awarded scholarships, their yearly education expenses, the living costs included, range between $ 15,000 and $ 80,000, on average.
This amount becomes gigantic when it comes to a negative rupee-dollar parity as the parents of these students have to buy dollars from the open market to cater their children’s educational expenses.
The US currency, according to money dealers, was sold at Rs 98.50 on the inter-bank and Rs 99.10 on the kerb market on Wednesday. Hafsa Mustafa is a middle class girl from North Nazimabad who was fortunate enough to finally get admission in the US’ North Carolina State University.
She, however, would have to pay $ 40,000 annually to the new varsity she would be joining in Fall 2014 for studying electrical engineering. “Yes it concerns us in a sense that our parents earn in rupees but they would have to spend in dollars,” Hafsa told Pakistan Today at an Iftar reception held here last week at a local restaurant.
The event marked the USEFP giving a pre-departure orientation to over 50 Karachiite students in collaboration with the US Consulate General. Wearing scarf, the student is pinning hope in the scholarships, she firmly believes, her university would be offering her once she reached there.
Least concerned about the finances though, Alina Zaki, from the posh neighbourhood of Defence, agreed that a weaker rupee makes studies in the US dearer for Pakistani students. “Yeah, it does matter because you have to pay in dollars. So you have to make your calculations,” said Alina who would be studying engineering in the University of California (UoC).
Given the high quality of education in UoC, during her four-year degree programme, the apparently affluent student would be paying to her American educators at least $0.26 million, $65,000 per annum, on account of tuition fee.
Applying Wednesday’s open market exchange rate, these thousands of dollars turn out to more than Rs 25.76 million. Hamiz, another student from Defence, shrugging off the impact of rupee-dollar parity, said education in the US was expensive.
“US education is expensive for all. It is not because of Pak rupee’s worth,” he said adding, “It is not a big problem”.
Umair Khan, a career counsellor at USEFP, did not agree with Hamiz saying economy was a primary source of concern for potential Pakistani students pursuing higher education in American schools and universities.
Himself a graduate in economics and maths from Northeren Illinois University, Khan told Pakistan Today that every year more than 4,800 students visit the US from Pakistan.
Depending on the nature of educational institution and the city of living, the annual average cost of education in America, the USEFP official said, ranged between $ 15,000 to $ 80,000.
Based in Islamabad, Khan had specially visited Karachi to guide, on behalf of USEFP, students on the challenges they would be facing in the US at last week’s Iftar event.
“Economy is the basic issue as rupee has been devaluing against the dollar (in recent past),” he viewed.
The rupee-dollar parity, he dubbed as a “number 1 factor” for Pakistani students going to the US.
Because of this factor, he said: “I would think a thousand times even if I intend to send my children to the US for studying.” Khan, also a Fullbright Outreach manager at the Foundation, however, was happy to say that the number of Pakistani students getting enrolled in American schools and universities was increasing.
“For the last two years, there is a welcome trend that more and more students are going to the US,” the official said.
The US government is all praise for Pakistani students studying in America. “They enjoy a very good reputation in the US. They are hard working, smart and responsible,” Brian Asmus, a spokesman of US Consulate here, told the orientation ceremony which had marked the fifth day of his arrival in Pakistan to replace his predecessor Andrew Armstrong.
The present PML-N government appears to be doing all it can to strengthen rupee against the greenback. The on-again-off-again dollar inflows on account of bilateral and multi-lateral foreign disbursements have grown the country’s previously-depleting dollar reserves beyond $ 13 billion.