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India looks to US community colleges for insight

Indian education ministers toured community colleges in the US and attended the American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) annual convention last week, to gain insight on the American community college sector. The Indian government sees community colleges as key to providing a skilled workforce and aims to open 100 by 2017.

During the visit, which was coordinated by the Wadhwani Foundation, officials hoped to gain knowledge of  how to make their colleges more jobs driven, attract more students and industry support, and increase transfer rates to higher education among other objectives.

In the US, “community colleges are crucial to providing an affordable education and promoting economic development,” said Sanjay Rai, provost of Maryland’s Montgomery College. “India is in a similar state now. This is a time when millions need access to higher education. The community college model is a natural fit for India.”

In recent years, the US has taken an active role to help India overhaul its higher education system. Last year US President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh established the Obama-Singh initiative to provide US$10 million for increased university collaboration and faculty development. The Fulbright-Nehru partnership, which gives grants to lecturers and students, has nearly tripled in size since Obama and Singh increased funding in 2009.

“I really believe a rising tide lifts all boats, and the more we have an educated workforce here in America, the more we have an educated workforce in India, the more we have that next generation of both employees and consumers, that’s great for the world,” US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said commenting on the visit.

The US has taken an active role to help India overhaul its higher education system

Educational ties between the two countries were strained last year after the immigration scandal at Tri-Valley University, California, which affected around 1,500 Indian students who claimed to have been duped by the sham college.

At a press conference during the visit, US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland confirmed that the US had not changed its policy towards issuing visas to Indian students but rather was focusing on verifying institutions.

“I don’t think we’ve changed our policy with regard to the way we interview applicants”

“I don’t think we’ve changed our policy with regard to the way we interview applicants,” said Nuland.

“I think what we are doing is making sure that the sponsoring organisations truly are what they say they are in the United States; that if they say that they are bringing students over to educate them, that they intend to educate them, not put them to work.”


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