Financial Literacy Gains Momentum in U.S. Schools: A Comprehensive Look at the Growing Emphasis on Personal Finance Education

Personal finance education has gained significant traction in recent years, with many states now mandating it as a requirement for high school graduation. This development has been hailed by activists who have long advocated for greater emphasis on financial literacy.

According to a tracker maintained by Next Gen Personal Finance, the availability of standalone personal finance courses for high school students was limited to just eight states in 2020. However, this year marks a significant increase, with 25 states offering financial literacy classes in K-12. Of these, eight states have fully implemented the course, while 17 are still in the process of doing so.

Jessica Pelletier, the executive director of FitMoney, noted the sudden surge in state initiatives towards financial education, stating, “All of a sudden, it does seem like states are sitting up and taking notice, and it’s really just happened in the past couple of years.”

Experts emphasize that these classes go beyond basic financial tasks like writing checks. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is optimism that financial literacy education will continue to expand, potentially reaching students in middle school as well.

The pandemic appears to have heightened awareness about the importance of financial literacy among educators and parents. Pelletier suggested that the economic downturn and financial hardships experienced by many households during the pandemic contributed to a sense of urgency around financial education.

Lindsay Torrico, the executive director of the American Bankers Association (ABA) Foundation, highlighted the increased efforts to promote financial education. She stated, “Last year, we launched a new effort in a new commitment to engage more banks in financial education.”

Laura Levine, president and CEO of Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, observed a steady growth in financial literacy education in schools over the past two decades. She emphasized that economic instability, such as the 2008 recession and the 2020 pandemic, often catalyzes interest in financial education.

The curriculum for financial literacy covers various topics, including earning income, spending, saving, investing, managing credit, and managing risk. Levine emphasized the comprehensive nature of the curriculum, stating, “We’re seeing if you look at the standard, it covers investing, insurance, savings, spending, budgeting, you know, it’s kind of a full spectrum.”

Recognizing the limitations of relying solely on financial education at home, many schools are now integrating financial literacy into their curriculum. Levine pointed out that not all students have access to financial education at home, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds or in foster care.

Efforts to promote financial literacy are not limited to high school education; there is also a growing emphasis on starting financial education at an earlier age. The ABA Foundation, for example, has programs targeting kindergarten through eighth grade, where bankers deliver presentations and lessons directly to students.

Kelsey Havemann, senior manager of the ABA Foundation’s youth financial education program, highlighted the community-driven initiatives to promote financial literacy, stating, “So the communities have taken it upon themselves to really step up and help out as much as they can with having bankers go into these classrooms and get these kids on the path to financial understanding.”

Despite the legislative progress, the push for greater financial literacy largely hinges on convincing adults to prioritize the subject. Pelletier noted that students are generally eager to learn about financial matters, recognizing the practical relevance of the knowledge they gain. She stated, “This is one of the only classes I’ve really heard of that almost every single student wants to take.”

The widespread adoption of personal finance education in schools reflects a growing recognition of the importance of financial literacy. While legislative efforts have played a role, community-driven initiatives and grassroots activism are also driving progress in this field. As financial education becomes more comprehensive and accessible, there is hope that future generations will be better equipped to navigate the complexities of personal finance.

Revolutionizing Education: AI-Powered Tools Reshape Classroom Dynamics and Learning Experiences

In a quaint five-room village school shaded by coconut trees, educator Ravindra K. Nagaiah has something special in store for his seventh-grade science class today.

The lesson revolves around “Acids, Bases, and Salts.” Alongside the customary supply of litmus strips, hydrochloric acid, and baking soda, Ravindra has arranged small beakers containing juice extracted from hibiscus flowers and lemons. The students eagerly gather around the table as one of them combines lemon juice with hibiscus juice. The resulting solution turns green, indicating acidity. Another student mixes baking soda with hibiscus juice, causing it to turn pink.

“Who knew, children, that hibiscus juice could serve as a natural pH indicator?” Ravindra asks with a smile.

The inspiration for this engaging activity came from Shiksha copilot, an innovative AI digital assistant designed to formulate lesson plans – complete with activities, videos, and quizzes – in a matter of minutes. Developed in collaboration with the non-profit Sikshana Foundation, this software is currently being trialed in English and Kannada languages by 30 teachers across 30 schools in Karnataka state, with encouraging feedback from educators.

Shiksha copilot forms part of Project VeLLM, an initiative by Microsoft Research India aimed at creating specialized generative AI assistants accessible to various sectors, from educators to farmers and small business owners. The platform, built on Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service, is intricately linked with the school curriculum and learning objectives. By leveraging Azure Cognitive Service, the software can analyze textbook content and its structure.

The ultimate goal of Shiksha copilot is to provide relief to India’s overburdened government schoolteachers while enriching the learning experience for their students. Ravindra attests to the significant time savings achieved through this tool, allowing him to dedicate more attention to his students. Previously, crafting a single lesson plan could consume up to 40 minutes, whereas now, he can devise a new lesson in just 10 minutes.

In a school with limited resources like his, Ravindra often needs to adapt lesson plans according to available materials. Shiksha copilot proves invaluable in such situations, offering alternative ideas tailored to his requirements. Whether it’s adjusting activities, shortening videos, or modifying assignments, the software enables him to personalize lessons effectively.

The conventional method of teaching with chalk and blackboard no longer suffices in today’s digital age, observes Ravindra. Thanks to Shiksha copilot, he can allocate the time saved to engage more actively with his students.

The challenge of crafting lesson plans is compounded by the prevalence of large class sizes in Indian primary schools. With a teacher-to-student ratio of 1:33, compared to the global average of 1:23, educators face an uphill battle in capturing the attention of their pupils. In urban areas, class sizes can soar to between 40 and 80 students, exacerbating the situation.

This disparity has led many families, regardless of their income level, to opt for private schooling, exacerbating the exodus from government schools. Prasanna Vadayar, CEO of Sikshana Foundation, emphasizes the organization’s mission to enhance the quality of education in government schools, aiming to reverse this trend permanently.

Sikshana’s initiatives, such as the Prerana project, incentivize student participation and academic performance through innovative methods like peer leadership and rewards for achievements. By implementing such interventions, Sikshana has reached over 50,000 schools across six states in India, impacting millions of students.

The collaboration between Sikshana Foundation and Microsoft Research India heralds a new era of educational innovation. Shiksha copilot represents a step towards addressing the pressing challenges faced by teachers and students alike. Through a combination of generative AI technology and domain-specific knowledge, the software streamlines the lesson planning process while ensuring accuracy and relevance.

Feedback from teachers involved in the pilot program underscores the effectiveness of Shiksha copilot in reducing preparation time and enhancing classroom engagement. With plans to expand the initiative to 100 schools and curate top-rated lesson plans, the project aims to further empower educators and optimize learning outcomes.

As Smitha Venkatesh, Chief Program Officer at Sikshana Foundation, reflects on the potential of AI in education, she emphasizes its capacity to support teachers and students alike. Beyond simplifying lesson planning, Shiksha copilot holds promise in addressing a myriad of educational challenges, from scheduling classes to aiding struggling students.

In the evolving landscape of education, AI emerges as a valuable ally, offering solutions to enhance teaching and learning experiences. As educators like Ravindra and Mahalakshmi embrace these technological advancements, every classroom becomes a vibrant hub of knowledge and discovery, nurturing the future generation.

Senate Grills Pharma CEOs Over Sky-High Drug Prices Amidst Revelations of Financial Priorities

Sparks ignited on Capitol Hill Thursday as the leaders of three pharmaceutical giants faced interrogation from the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions regarding the substantial disparity in drug prices between the United States and other nations.

During the nearly three-hour session, executives from Bristol Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck engaged in a heated exchange with the committee members over pricing strategies and the allocation of company resources.

Senator Bernie Sanders, the committee chairman, acknowledged the significance of the life-saving drugs developed by these companies but underscored the critical issue of accessibility, stating, “those drugs do nothing for anybody who cannot afford it.”

The committee’s analysis revealed staggering discrepancies in drug prices across countries. Merck’s cancer drug Keytruda, for example, costs $100,000 more in the U.S. than in France, while Bristol Myers Squibb’s Eliquis is nearly ten times pricier in the U.S. than in Germany, and Johnson & Johnson’s Stelara is five times more expensive in the U.S. compared to Japan.

Executives defended the higher prices in the U.S., citing faster access to new drugs and the substantial share of list prices claimed by pharmaceutical benefit managers (PBMs).

Merck’s CEO, Robert Davis, highlighted the increasing pressure from PBMs for larger discounts, resulting in a widening gap between list and net prices, ultimately to the detriment of patients.

However, legislators countered with examples such as Japan and Canada, where despite longer drug approval processes, life expectancies surpass that of the United States, challenging the notion that delayed access necessarily compromises health outcomes.

Senator Sanders confronted Merck’s CEO about the human toll of exorbitant drug costs, revealing instances of individuals resorting to crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe to finance their treatments. He recounted the story of Rebecca, a Nebraska school lunch lady who tragically succumbed to cancer after struggling to afford Keytruda.

Behind the scenes, there was drama as Merck and Johnson & Johnson initially refused to testify, citing a lack of expertise on drug pricing. Senator Sanders deemed their excuses “laughable to absurd” and threatened subpoena before they agreed to testify voluntarily.

PhRMA, the pharmaceutical trade group, preemptively defended drug pricing disparities, arguing that earlier drug launches in the U.S. provide Americans with swifter access to medications. They also pointed fingers at high healthcare spending and PBMs.

A Senate report released earlier exposed the disproportionate allocation of resources by Bristol Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck, revealing that they prioritize executive compensation, stock buybacks, and dividends over research and development.

Senator Sanders raised questions about the discrepancy between corporate spending and the pursuit of new cures, emphasizing the need for accountability and transparency.

The report further demonstrated that these companies generate more revenue from selling drugs in the U.S. than in the rest of the world combined, while drug prices either decrease or remain steady elsewhere.

The Kerala Center In New York To Establish Dr. Thomas Abraham Library

“The Kerala Center Board of Directors and the General Body in their meetings have agreed to establish a library under the name Dr. Thomas Abraham Library, which will carry an India Collection of Books and Indian Diaspora Books,” said a statement issued by the Kerala Center. “The library will serve as a reference library for India related books and Indian Diaspora books.”

Dr. Thomas Abraham is the Chairman, Board of Trustees, The Kerala Center and

Serves as the Chairman, GOPIO International. Dr. Thomas Abraham has been honored with the Bharatvanshi Gaurav Award of Anthar Rashtriya Sahayog Parishad and Pravasi Bharatiya Samman for his services to the NRI/PIO communities for the past 50 years since he moved to New York as a graduate student at Columbia University. He has been an architect behind the establishment of several organizations including the Federation of Indian Assocaitons (FIA); National Federation of Indian Associations (NFIA); GOPIO International; and The Kerala Center.

Featured & Cover The Kerala Center In New York To Establish Dr Thomas Abraham Library 3“I have been collecting books on India related to religion, culture, economy, politics, relations with other countries and tourism, which will be housed at the Kerala Center,” Dr. Abraham sated. “In addition, I have personal collection of books on India and Indian Diaspora related books, some of them are not even available at any other place, which will be donated to this library. The Government of India through the Indian Consulate New York has provided several hundreds of India related books.”

The library will be inaugurated on Saturday, April 6th starting at 5 p.m. at the Kerala Center with cocktails, a ribbon cutting ceremony and felicitations followed entertainment and dinner. I request you to keep that date available. An invitation will be sent to you later.

Describing the origins to establishing this library, Dr. Abraham said, “One of my friends floated this idea to me to set up a library since I have served our community for the last 50 years starting many community institutions.:

Dr. Abrham has successfully campaigned on many community issues. He has helped several community members to advance and helped many organizations to flourish. Because of the connections he has with the community for the past fifty years, Dr. Abraham has also accumulated hundreds of Indian Diaspora books.

Dr. Abraham says, “I also felt that my time is also coming up to downsize my activities. And the library is the best place to keep all those books and other community literature and documents so that future generations would know about our community mobilization and what we have done in the last fifty years to benefit our community and India.”

The Library will also be a place for the community to keep historic documents of the major Indian communityThe Kerala Center In New York To Establish Dr Thomas Abraham Library 2 groups and history of Indian Diaspora in different countries. Ultimately, the Kerala Center plans to make it a top Indian Diaspora Resource Center, may be even as a research center with grants from Foundations and government agencies in the future.

The Kerala Center plans to raise $25,000 to modernize the upper conference room as a library room with shelves and a long wooden reading table and chairs in the middle, which can also be used as a conference room. The hall will be used as a hybrid conference room too to host hybrid in person and virtual meetings and seminars.

Dr. Abraham said, “I am approaching my community colleagues and friends to support this project. We have already received a total contribution of $20,000 from friends. We need to raise only $5,000 now and we need your support.   Please contribute whatever amount you can and it is tax deductible. You could send a check to The Kerala Center, 1824 Fairfax St., Elmont, NY 11003 or contribute online using your credit card at the PayPal Link for the Kerala Cetner at http://tinyurl.com/2j3jbsm6. Please do mention that your contribution is for the library project.

The Kerala Center urges people of Indian origin to donate their books to this new library. “If you are downsizing and have India related books to donate, please let me know. We will pick it up.”

The Unlikely Beginnings of Life on Earth

The precise genesis of life on our planet remains a profound mystery, with numerous uncertainties surrounding its how, where, and why. The lack of a universally accepted definition for “life” exacerbates this challenge. While most life forms are unmistakably alive, the study of life’s origins necessitates an exploration of a process that transforms non-living matter into living entities, blurring the delineation between mere chemical reactions and the emergence of vitality.

To delve into the origins of life, it becomes imperative to establish a basic working definition of life. Life, in essence, is defined as that which undergoes Darwinian evolution. This entails the experience of natural selection, wherein traits conducive to survival and reproduction are perpetuated across generations, while those less advantageous are discarded or carried along without significance.

Earth stands as the sole known site in the universe where Darwinian evolution operates. To thrive under evolutionary pressures and distinguish itself from mere chemical processes, life must fulfill three fundamental criteria.

Firstly, life must possess the capacity to store information, encompassing the encoding of various processes, traits, and chracteristics essential for survival and reproduction.

Secondly, life must exhibit self-replication, enabling the faithful reproduction of its molecular structure to perpetuate its encoded information across successive generations.

Lastly, life must catalyze reactions within its environment, facilitating functions such as movement, energy acquisition, growth, and other vital activities.

Through the interplay of information storage, self-replication, and catalytic reactions, life evolves, gradually advancing in complexity and specialization over vast expanses of time, culminating in conscious beings capable of contemplating their own origins.

In the modern era, life on Earth has evolved an intricate array of chemical and molecular mechanisms to propagate itself. DNA, RNA, and proteins constitute the triad of molecular tools fundamental to life’s functioning and evolution.

DNA serves as the primary repository of genetic information, utilizing combinations of four molecules—adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine—to encode vast amounts of data. The information density of DNA rivals that of digital systems, far surpassing natural languages in efficiency.

RNA, akin to DNA but with subtle distinctions such as uracil substitution for thymine and the presence of ribose sugar, acts as an intermediary in gene expression, translating genetic instructions from DNA to synthesize proteins.

Proteins, encompassing a diverse array of molecular machines, undertake a multitude of tasks vital for life, including molecular manipulation, structural support, energy transformation, and DNA replication. Crucially, proteins facilitate the unraveling of DNA and the faithful reproduction of its genetic code, thereby perpetuating the cycle of life and enabling evolutionary adaptation.

The intricate interdependence of DNA, RNA, and proteins underscores the complexity of life’s molecular machinery, a product of billions of years of evolutionary refinement. This interconnectivity precludes the spontaneous emergence of life from primordial conditions, as the absence of any component would disrupt the entire system, akin to a three-legged table collapsing without one leg.

Thequest to unravel the origins of life on Earth remains a compelling scientific endeavor, necessitating a nuanced understanding of life’s defining characteristics and the intricate molecular mechanisms underlying its evolution.

https://www.universetoday.com/165381/the-improbable-origins-of-life-on-earth/#google_vignette

Prof. Bellamkonda Kishore Bestowed With Hind Rattan Award In New Delhi

Prof. Bellamkonda Kishore, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, an academician, innovator, and entrepreneur of Salt Lake City, Utah was honored with the prestigious Hind Rattan (Jewel of India) award during a solemn ceremony at the Constitution Club, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, India, on the eve of the Republic Day of India, January 25, 2024.

Dr Kishore 2Described as the second highest award given to the Indian diaspora, The ‘Hind Rattan Award’ is given to outstanding Indians by the NRI Welfare Society of India, New Delhi. In conjunction with the national Pravasi Bharatiya award, the highest one (given by the Government of India), the Hindu Rattan award is granted at the society’s annual Congress on the eve of India’s Republic Day. The Hindu Rattan award ceremony is attended by the members of the Prime Minister’s Office, Government officials, Judges and advocates of the Supreme Court of India, international diplomats, and celebrities.

Nearly two dozen of these awards are given annually to people chosen from the several millions of Indian diaspora members for keeping the flag of India high. Most recipients are professionals working in the academics or science and technology industry and who have made an impact in their fields at the international level.

Dr. Kishore is an academician and innovator who turned to entrepreneurship recently. His academic life withDr Kishore 3 research, teaching and mentoring in the field of medicine spans 40 years in Asia (India & Japan), Europe, and the United States, including the Intramural Research Program of the US National Institutes of Health, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs. During this period, Dr. Kishore did impactful research with seminal discoveries in kidney diseases, obesity, and related conditions, and obtained patents for the development of novel therapies. In recognition of his innovative work in academics, Dr. Kishore has been inducted as the Senior Member of the National Academy of Inventors, Washington DC.He has been inducted as a Fellow by professional organizations such as the American Society of Nephrology (FASN), Royal Society of Biology (FRSB), American Physiological Society (FAPS), American Heart Association (FAHA), the International Society of Nephrology (FISN).

In September 2023, Dr. Kishore received Nelson Mandela Leadership Award from the NRI Welfare Society of India. Founded on the life and principles of the Nobel Laureate in Peace, Nelson Mandela, who emphasized that education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world – the NRI Welfare Society felicitates those who matter from various fields for their outstanding services, achievements, and contributions.

Dr. Kishore is also a decorated editor of medical journals, being the Founding Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (JAAPI), and recipient of Outstanding Editor Award from the Frontiers in Renal Physiology and Pathophysiology, a Switzerland-based peer-reviewed journal.

Dr KIshore 4

After directing an internationally recognized kidney research program as a Principal Investigator at the US Department of Veterans Affairs Salt Lake City Health Care System for about 20 years, where he received a Superior Performance Award and News Release local radio broadcast of his research, in May 2020 Dr. Kishore moved out to build ePurines, Inc., a startup drug development company focused on developing innovative purinergic signaling-based therapies for obesity, metabolic syndrome, and kidney and liver disease. Currently, he is an Adjunct Professor of Medicine (Nephrology)  at the University of Utah Health, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Dr. Kishore believes that Passion, Perseverance, and Patience (3Ps) are the only ingredients anyone needs, despite his/her status at the start of career or life. If these three are there, everything will fall in place one day or another. It is just a question of time. Dr. Kishore says that there are still plenty of opportunities to grow in this world and do meaningful work, provided we prepare by changing our attitude and recognize and follow our priorities in life whether they are pleasant to us or not. He says that people fail often not because they are not smart or intelligent, but because they chose wrong priorities in life and pursue them without thinking where they will lead them.

Dr. Kishore adds, a purpose-driven life is far more superior than a success-driven life. Because, a purpose-drive life expands our consciousness and horizons, whereas success-driven life narrows our consciousness and options. By putting together his philosophy and experience in life, Dr. Kishore has written and published two books Tamasoma Jyothirgamaya and Life is Creating Yourself to benefit aspiring students and youth seeking direction and guidance in life beyond the academics. These books are available freely to download as PDF copies by clicking on the hyperlinks. Dr. Kishore considers that academics only prepare us to earn livelihood, but not teach us how to lead our lives. He hopes that his books will provide much needed insights to the youth to shape their lives and thus lead purposeful lives.

Dr. Kishore is a freelance writer and composer in Telugu ad English. His recent poetical tribute, Pandemic Gitanjali on COVID-19 aptly reflects his unique skills as a writer and thoughtful leader.

Dr. Kishore has been active in non-profit and service organizations both locally and at the national level. He received accolades and awards from organizations, such as AAPI, NATA, TANA among others. Please visit his website for more details: https://www.bkkishore.online/

Ramanan Raghavendran Assumes Leadership as Chair of University of Pennsylvania’s Board of Trustees, Championing Sustainability and Philanthropy

Ramanan Raghavendran assumes the role of chair for the board of trustees at the University of Pennsylvania, succeeding Scott L. Bok, who held the position from July 2021 until his resignation in December 2023.

A distinguished alumnus of Penn, Raghavendran currently serves as the managing partner and co-founder of Amasia, a global venture capital firm with a specific focus on climate and sustainability.

J. Larry Jameson, Penn’s interim president, expressed his enthusiasm for Raghavendran’s appointment, referring to it as an “inspiring choice.” Jameson highlighted Raghavendran’s extensive connection to the university, having earned three Penn degrees and actively participated in various leadership roles. He also acknowledged Raghavendran’s professional experience, particularly in navigating a rapidly evolving business landscape. Jameson expressed confidence in Raghavendran’s collaboration with other distinguished trustees to advance the university’s significant and impactful missions.

Julie Beren Platt, who served as interim chair and will resume her role as vice chair, commended Raghavendran’s dedication to Penn. Drawing from her experience working closely with him on the Executive Committee, she emphasized his thoughtful approach to listening and his deep investment in relationships.

In response to his appointment, Raghavendran conveyed his honor in assuming the role of Chair of Penn’s Board of Trustees. He expressed a profound belief in the crucial role that esteemed American universities, such as the University of Pennsylvania, play as custodians of the values that define modern civilization.

Raghavendran’s professional journey in venture capital and growth equity spans over three decades. He has held influential positions at General Atlantic, Insight Partners, TH Lee Putnam Ventures, and Kubera Partners. His career commenced at McKinsey & Company, marking the beginning of a trajectory that would lead him to his current leadership position at Amasia.

Beyond his corporate pursuits, Raghavendran actively contributes to societal and environmental causes. He currently holds a position on the board of SF Goodwill and serves on the advisory council of the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University. Over the last 30 years, he has played a pivotal role as a seed funder and board member for numerous NGOs. His ongoing affiliation with Magic Bus, an organization dedicated to supporting at-risk children in South Asia, further underscores his commitment to social impact.

Raghavendran’s association with the University of Pennsylvania dates back to 2014 when he first became a university trustee. In 2020, he assumed the role of chair for the local, national, and global engagement committee. His contributions continued to grow, as he joined the executive committee in 2022. Furthermore, he has been actively involved with the School of Arts and Sciences board of advisors since 2012, eventually becoming its chair in 2022.

In summarizing Raghavendran’s multifaceted engagement with the University of Pennsylvania, it is evident that his commitment extends beyond his professional achievements. His extensive involvement in various capacities underscores a deep-rooted passion for the institution’s growth and impact.

“With three Penn degrees, devoted University engagement in multiple leadership roles, and professional experience in a rapidly changing business environment, he is poised to partner with other distinguished Trustees to support our university’s important and impactful missions.”

Reflecting on Raghavendran’s appointment, Platt adds, “Having worked closely with Ramanan as a member of the Executive Committee, I have seen first-hand his passion for and commitment to Penn. He is someone who listens with intention and invests deeply in relationships.”

Finally, Raghavendran himself emphasizes his belief in the vital role that institutions like the University of Pennsylvania play in shaping and preserving the values of modern civilization. “I am honored to take on the role of Chair of Penn’s Board of Trustees,” he states, encapsulating his deep sense of privilege in contributing to the university’s leadership.

AAPI’s Global Healthcare Summit In Manipal Ends, Giving Delegates A Memorable Experience In Scientific Learning And Authentic Karnataka Culture

(Manipal India – Jan. 8th, 2023) The focus of the 17th Annual Global Healthcare Summit by The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) held in Delhi and Manipal’s has been sharing of knowledge and expertise on The Future of Healthcare and Artificial Intelligence, providing hundreds of delegates from abroad and India to interact and learn from one another about the trends in modern technology in healthcare and best practices that can help physicians to provide the best and affordable healthcare to the patients.

The highly acclaimed annual Summit, organized by AAPI in collaboration with AIIMS, Kasturba Medical College in Manipal, the Indian Medical Association, and the Government of the State of Karnataka and the Global Association of Indian Medical Students (GAIMS) was inaugurated with the lighting of the traditional lamp in Manipal, setting the stage for the convergence of profound medical discourse and cultural celebration on January 5th, 2024.

Future of Healthcare and Artificial Intelligence was echoed in every scientific presentation provided by the esteemed speakers from around the world. The multidisciplinary CME conference during the GHS allowed specialists and primary care physicians to interact in an academic forum. World-renowned speakers discussed gaps between current and best practices on a wide-ranging topics during the CME sessions.

“It’s a well-known fact that physicians of Indian origin excel in their respective areas of work and continue to play key roles in patient care, administration, academics and medical research. In order to cater to its diversity of medical specialties, AAPI continues to use a multi-disciplinary conference format. The essence of AAPI is educational,” Dr. Anjana Samadder, president of AAPI, while describing the objectives of CME said. Dr. Samadder expressed AAPI’s commitment to collaborating with prestigious institutes like AIIMS and MAHE.

Dr. Sampat Shivangi, Chair of GHS highlighted the significant Indian involvement in the American health sector and the aim of the global health conference, discussing innovative technologies’ relevance. Stressing the growing focus on AI technology globally, the conference has aimed to explore its possibilities in healthcare, he added.

According to Dr. Shivangi, “The objective of the GHS has translated into numerous Continuing Medical Education (CME) and non-CME seminars by experts in their fields. CMEs during GHS provided comprehensive and current reviews and guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases with the objective of reducing morbidity and mortality and achieve cost effective quality care outcomes. At the end of the GHS, it is expected that attendees have gained an understanding of the causation, diagnosis and the best clinical practices for the management of the diverse groups of diseases.”

AAPI 2024 Collage 7The AAPI Medical Symposium continued its legacy of delivering engaging and informative sessions, bringing together medical professionals and experts to explore various facets of healthcare. On January 5th, CME Sessions in Manipal was Inaugurated by Indian Medical Association National President, Dr. R .V. Ashokan.

The inaugural CME session was led by Dr. Amit Chakrabarty MD, MS (PGI), FRCS (Edin), FICS, Consultant Urologist USA Chairman, Poplar Bluff Urology PC, who presented his insights on: PSA Testing – Quandaries and Conundrums, Dr Tom Devasia’s presentation focused on: Intracoronary imaging in complex coronary interventions: Indian trends with a focus on Manipal, Experience. “SGLT2-I & HFrEF” was the topic presented by Dr. Dyanand Naik MD FACC, Associate Prof. at Columbia University, New York.

Comparison of USA & India Zoonotic Diseases was eloquently presented by Dr. Jois Krishnamurthy DVM, MVSc,MS, M(ASCP), DM – Retired Veterinary Medical Officer & Director – U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington D. C. Dr. Bantwal Suresh Baliga MD, MRCP(UK) Associate, Prof. Mercer School of Medicine, Mercer University, GA USA had his session on Innovative AI management of Diabetes Mellitius. Dr Karthik Udupa’s session was about Principles of Immunotherapy & its application in clinical practice.

Dr. Unnikrishnan opened the 2nd day of the CME with his eloquent presentation on: Role of Artificial Intelligence in achieving sustainable development goals.  Dr. Srinivasan Vijayakumar, Cancer Care Advisors & Consultants LLC University of Mississippi Medical Center, USA presented on Precision population medicine in cancer care: Potential benefits for cancer care in India.

Dr. Yogeesh Kamath’s focus during his session was on AI in the prevention & treatment of arthritis for young and old. Dr. Sanjay Agarwal MD Pulmonary & Critical Care did his presentation on Advanced Technology and AI focused Care in OBA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) & Lung Cancer. A session on Management of Snake Bite by Dr. Chakrapan provided practical solutions to a common problem faced by many.

Insights into Impact of Climate Change on Health Systems was offered by Dr. Vikas Kapil, Chief Medical Officer, Associate Director of Science, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Georgia, USA.

Dr. Krishan Kumar MD FAAP FACEP FAEMS, Prof. Pediatrics & Emergency Medicine, NY College New York, USA educated the delegates on: Emergency Medicine and updates – Weapons of Mass Destruction Relevant to the Current World Order. The final session of GHS 20024 was by Dr. Vani Vijaykumar MD who had her presentation focused on: Transthyretin Cardiac Amyloidosis (ATTR-CA) and Alzheimer Disease & Beyond oncology into Autoimmune Diseases- FDG PETCT role in Systemic Vasculitidis.

AAPI 2024 Collage 9The Lifetime Achievement Award was conferred upon Dr. Ramdas Pai, Chancellor of Manipal Education Institute (MAHE). Dr. Ranjan Pai and Mrs. Vasanthi Pai accepted the honor on his behalf, and lauded Dr. Ramdas Pai’s achievements and invited all attending doctors to MAHE. Prominent personalities present at the event included Manipal Education and Medical Group (MEMG) Dr. Ranjan Pai, Dr. H S Ballal Pro Chancellor, MAHE, and Lt Gen (Dr) M D Venkatesh, Chair, GHS, India.

Dr. Arathi Krishna, Deputy Chairman, NRI Forum, Government of Karnataka, while inaugurating the program expressed her happiness about the health summit being organized in Karnataka. She affirmed the government’s commitment to supporting technological and medical sector development.

On January 4th, entertainment by Manipal Cultural Committee was breathtaking, showcasing the rich classical and folk traditions of southern India. This was followed by Live Music & Entertainment, presented by US delegate Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Vice President of AAPI.

Saturday, January 5, 2024 began with a visit to Udupi Sri Krishna Temple, seeking blessings on all by the delegates. A visit to the Hastha Shilpa Heritage Village Museum Tour was a unique experience appreciated by all participants. Tour of Manipal University provided participants to see and experience the campus, that stands among the best in the world.

Kavyabhinaya performance om January 5th by Manasi Sudhir, led by Kantara, a fame actress & Team was mesmerizing.  The delegates enjoyed cultural programs featuring a captivating Kavybhinaya performance by Manasi Sudhir and team, renowned for their contributions to the show “Kantara.” The night ended with a Musical Extravaganza by the highly acclaimed Anirudh Shastry. The grand finale on Saturday night was by Dr. Mohan Alva, the Cultural Ambassador of India, a unique NUDISIRI Cultural Gala Show, cherished by one and all.

Authentic and delicious Mangalore dishes served on traditional banana leaf was another memorable experience for all delegates during GHS in Manipal. Welcome Dinner by Manipal (MAHE) was served on January 4th.

AAPI 2024 Collage 10The popular CEO Forum had leaders in both the corporate and healthcare field, including, Ganesh Nayak, Executive Director, Zydus Lifesciences Ltd., Jagadish Tande, Prof. Madhav Das Nalapat, Dr. Vijay Gopal, Cardiologist, and Mr. Jagadish K M, CEO of KMF. The CEO Forum chaired by Dr. Sampat Shivangi, Chair of GHS 2024. The CEO Forum was moderated by Dr. Subra Bhat, who was a lead organizer og GHE Manipal along with his wife, Dr. Anu Bhat.

The much-anticipated Women’s Forum had eminent successful women leaders, including: Dr. Anjana Samadder, President of AAPI;  Dr. Arathi Krishna, Deputy Chairperson, NRI Forum of Karnataka, Guest of Honor; Smt. Lakshmi R. Hebbalkar, Princess of Travancore Lakshmi Bayi Nalapat; and Dr. Annapurna Bhat. Co-Chair of Women’s Forum. The Forum was eloquently moderated by Dr. Udaya Shivangi, Chair of AAPI’s Women’s Forum and a key organizer of the GHS 2024 in Manipal.

Dr. Sampat Shivangi, Chair of GHS 2024 expressed his gratitude to all who have been instrumental in organizing the highly successful GHS in Manipal, particularly Dr. Subra Bhat, Dr. Annapurna Bhat, Dr. Udaya Shivangi, Dr. Ballal, Dr. Venkatesh, Dr. Rohit Singh, Dr, Sharat Kumar, Dr. Raj Alappan, Dr. Bantwal S. Baliga, Dr. Unnikrishnan, and Dr, Padmaraj Hegde.

India is making tremendous progress in the healthcare sector and is building modern medical facilities throughout the country. Physicians of Indian origin have earned a name for themselves in the medical field and India is now being touted as a medical tourism hub. With a rise in population, there is an urgent need to create additional health infrastructure, which entails a higher level of investment in the Indian healthcare market in the coming years.

It’s in this context, the groundbreaking AAPI Global Healthcare Summit (GHS) from January 1-6th, 2024 in Delhi and Manipal, Karnataka, organized with participation from some of the world’s most well-known physicians, and industry leaders becomes very critical and significant. This international healthcare summit is a progressive transformation from the first Indo-US Healthcare Summit launched by AAPI USA in 2007.

AAPI is an umbrella organization which has nearly 160 local chapters, specialty societies and alumni organizations. For over 41 years, Indian physicians have made significant contributions to health care in this country, not only practicing in inner cities, rural areas and peripheral communities but also at the top medical schools and other academic centers. Almost 10%-12% of medical students entering US schools are of Indian origin. Headquartered in Oak Brook, Illinois, AAPI represents the interests of over nearly 200,000 physicians, medical students and residents of Indian heritage in the United States. It is the largest ethnic medical organization in the nation. For more details and registration for the convention, please visit:  www.aapiconvention.org and www.aapiusa.org

AAPI Signs MoU with AIIMS for Collaboration in Research, Student Exchange, and Academics

(New Delhi, India – January 5th, 2024) The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi for collaboration in the areas of Research, Education and Student Exchange for a period of five years during the ongoing 17th edition of AAPI’s Annual Global Healthcare Summit in New Delhi and Manipal Karnataka.

MOU 2The collaboration between the AIIMS and AAPI signed at AIIMS in the presence of representatives from AAPI and AIIMS on January 3rd, 2024, marks a significant initiative to advance research, academia, and the exchange of knowledge, ultimately aiming to enhance patient care in India and has been hailed as a major step forward.

On behalf of AAPI, Dr. Anjana Samadder, President of AAPI signed the MoU, while Dr, M. Srinivasan, Director of AIIMS signed the MoU on behalf of AIIMS marking a new beginning in global collaboration in exchange of knowledge and medical students. Others who were present at the Signing Ceremony included, Dr. Rakesh Garg, Additional Professor in Onco-Anesthesia and Palliative Medicine at Delhi-AIIMS, Dr. Shubham Anand, Chair of GAIMS,  Dr. Ajeeth Kothari and Dr. Gautam Samadder, both past Presidents of AAPI, Dr. Sumul Raval, Secretary of AAPI, Dr. Bhavani Srinivasan, Chair of AAPI Publications, Dr. Inderpal Chabra, President of AAPI QLI, and Dr. Avinash Gupta, a senior leader of AAPI and President of Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) in NY/NJ/CT.

“The meeting today is a great beginning to facilitate collaborative efforts between India and the United States,” said Dr. Samadder. “The MoU between AAPI and AIIMS, India’s most premier Medical Education Institute has been signed for the purpose of furthering cooperation in education, student exchange, and research activities, affirming our intent to promote such academic collaborations and participate in various academic endeavors.”

In his address, Dr, Srinivasan said, “It is my pleasure that we are onboard with AAPI for its 17th annual Global Healthcare Summit. AIIMS New Delhi was established in 1956 to accomplish the trinity of mission, advanced medical education, cutting edge research, and quality patient care. I am certain that this collaboration will act as a platform for exchange of ideas and collaboration across the domains for cutting edge research and breakthrough in medical education. We look forward to meeting professionals, researchers, and experts in the field of healthcare and research from across the globe.”

The MOU envisages fulfilling of the objectives including that AAPI will offer administrative support to AIIMS by cooperation between AAPI and AIIMS and aims at revamping or initiating new fellowship programs at AIMS.

Under the Internship programs at AAPI, undergraduate and post graduate and PhD level students from AIIMS may visit universities/hospitals where AAPI members hold key positions for a period of two to eight weeks to attend Observership programs, specifically designed and offered or as a part of ongoing research at AAPI.

MOU 3Under the Joint Supervision Program, Doctoral level students from either side can be co supervised by faculty members from both the organizations.  AAPI members may permit its members to visit AIIMS for short durations, ranging from one week to one year to teach at AIIMS.

AAPI may invite faculty members from AIIMS to visit AAPI as visiting faculty members as per their designations for research and academic activities at institutions or hospitals where members hold key positions, for limited durations, on mutually agreeable terms.

Through the development and organization of short-term training and certificate courses by AAPI and enabling AIIMS faculty staff or students to take part in ongoing continuing education programs and courses of AAPI.

AAPI and AIIMs will collaborate for the development of new areas of research and extension of technical cooperation the new RP members for infrastructure development, management and upgradation of library and Teaching Research Laboratories

Dr. Rakesh Garg emphasized the importance of evidence-based medicine in the field of medical science. Dr. Garg highlighted the importance of understanding the motivations, findings, and limitations of ongoing studies, allowing for improvements in existing setups and delivering benefits to the broader community and population. He emphasized the efficiency gained through shared knowledge in research and clinical practices.

Featured & Cover MOU 1Dr. Sumul N. Raval, current Secretary of AAPI highlighted importance of the MoU said that this is the most successful outcomes from the GHS 2024 for the purpose of “learning from each other’s experiences, sharing vital insights and collaboration on future endeavors, mutual exchange of ideas, sharing of best practices that are critical for advancing medical education and assuring high standards for protecting public health will positively shape the medical education.”

AAPI hopes the excellence gained through long term vision, insight and hard work with both organizations and exchange of ideas and challenges will benefit the medical education system in India and help tens of thousands of medical graduates coming from India to have recognition in the US, said Dr. Samadder.

Since its inception over four decades ago, AAPI has been in the forefront advocating for medical school education reform and for the medical graduates from India to be treated on par with their counterparts in India. India is already leading the global pharmaceutical industry, and rebooting medical education will help India enter the league of leaders in healthcare around the world.

“The signing of MoU with AAIMS today is a great start, and I look forward to AAPI continuing to lead such efforts in the coming years benefiting the medical fraternity,” said Dr. Samadder. For more information on AAPI and its many initiatives, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

AAPI Brings Together Leaders In Medical Education Regulatory Boards From India, USA & UK During GHS 2024

India, home to one of the oldest medicinal systems in the world has made remarkable progress in medical education in the recent past. As the world is evolving to meet the ever-changing needs, medical education in India is moving forward with the objective of enabling every medical graduate and postgraduate to be the best in the world. Several changes are being made for graduates from Indian schools to be at par and for easy mobilization around the world, with the goal of making India the medical education hub for the world.

AAPI Global edIn this context, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), which has been leading efforts to help streamline medical education in India to meet the global standards, assembled a galaxy of medical regulatory organization leaders from India, the United Kingdom and the United States during the 17th annual Global Healthcare Summit in New Delhi, India on January 2, 2024.

Leaders of National Board of Examination in Medical Science (NBEMS) India, National Board of Examination in Medical Science (NBME) USA, and the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) were among the panelists that discussed and educated the aspiring medical students from some of the premium Medical Schools in India who had keenly participated at the panel discussion.

Dr. Lokesh Edara, BOT-Chair Elect and Dr. Sumul N. Raval, current Secretary of AAPI led and coordinated the initiative. During a prior meeting with AAPI leaders last year, they had invited AAPI leaders and those from other US regulatory bodies at the meeting to visit his office in New Delhi during their current visit to India. AAPI leaders invited the leadership of these regulatory groups to the AAPI annual convention in Philadelphia in July 2023 and to the AAPI Global Healthcare Summit meeting in New Delhi in January 2024.

Describing the initiative as “a historic mile stone and a testament to the commitment of AAPI towards Global Medical Education,” Dr. Lokesh Edara said, “AAPI is providing amazing opportunity to connect the medical education and licensing boards of USA (NBME, FSMB) and from India (NMC, NBEMS, AIIMS) to learn from one other’s experiences, sharing vital insights and collaboration on future endeavors, mutual exchange of ideas, sharing of best practices that are critical for advancing medical education and enhancing examination process, assuring high standards for protecting public health will positively shape the medical education.”

20240102 153214AAPI Global Medical Education has led this effort taking the delegation to the Indian National Board of Examinations in medical science NBEMS (nbe.edu.in) which conducts examination for the 1.8 million students and UG entrance examination across India and conduct the PG NNET entrance examination for 200,000 students annually. AAPI has been able to connect their visits to the National Medical Commission (NMC – nmc.org.in) that monitors ll700+ medical collges,100,000 MBBS admisisions,60,000 post graduate admissions and their education. During panel discussions lasting more than 3 hours of their experiences and their challenges.

The Indian delegation consisted of Dr. B.N. Gangadhar, Chairman, National Medical Commission; Dr. Aruna V. Vanikar, President, Undergraduate Medical Education Board, Dr Vijay Oza, President, Postgraduate Medical Education Board.

NBEMS (INDIA) was represented by Dr Abhijat Sheth, President of NBEMS, Dr Minu Bajpai, Executive Director of NBEMS; Dr Rakesh Sharma, member Director of NBEMS. NBEMS India also has more than 14000 PG seats in many specialties.

FSMB delegates included: Dr. Humayun Chaudhry, President CEO of FSMB, Dr Jeffery Crater, Chair Board of directors FSMB, Kate Lynn Templeton, Chair-Elect Board of directors FSMB, and Dr Sarvam Terkonda, past Chair Board of directors FSMB.

NBME had the following members at the Panel: Dr. Peter Katsufrakis President CEO of FSMB and Dr. Reena Karani, Chair Board of directors NBME (USA).

Jeffrey D. Carter, MD (Missouri) Chair of the FSMB is a distinguished medical professional, and was elected to the FSMB Board of Directors in 2017. Dr. Sarvam TerKonda (Past Chair, FSMB USA) is a highly regarded plastic surgeon based in Jacksonville, Florida.

Ms. Katie Templeton JD (Chair-elect, FSMB,USA), and Prof. Hasmukh Shah, Recruitment and Training in UK were some of the others from the Medical education field, who were part of the distinguished panelists.

Dr. Sheth presented the NBEMS mission and PG NEET examination, FMGE examination and more than 50 specialties for postgraduate and super specialties courses they are conducting and graduating. Dr. Katsufrakis provided an update on the NBME history and current examination-system.

Se, Edara urged Dr. Sheth to increase family medicine PG seats and nationalized formative assessment tests in theory part for all postgraduates and for post-graduate exit theory examination suggested computerized online test. Nationwide E-Learning systems for higher transfer of Knowledge in medical education.

Feature and Cover AAPI Brings Together Leaders In Medical Education Regulatory Boards From India USA & UK During GHS 2024Dr. Raval said, “In order for us to meet the unprecedented demand and to bring up the quality of education, the Indian medical education system is changing rapidly. The meeting today was a great beginning to facilitate collaborative efforts between India and the United States.”

Medical education has many challenges in the transfer of knowledge and quality. India is introducing the NEXT examination, which is the licensing examination similar to USML in the US, while the UKMLE is starting in the UK in 2024 in the place of PLAB examination. NMC has applied for WFME Recognition status, which is mandatory to apply for USMLE examination.

NBEMS is responsible for NEET PG Entrance Test, which is taken up by more than 200,000 students annually. 694 Medical schools in India with106,083 MBBs admissions per year selected from 2.1 million applicants through the UG NEET examination across India in 3 hours. The current government policy has been to have one medical college in every district to meet the growing needs of India,

FSMB federation of state medical boards leadership (fsmb.org) and NBME National board of examination USA (nbme.org) leadership is visiting India for the first time in 30 years.

“Overview National Board of Examinations” was the main theme discussed during the meeting. AAPI hopes the excellence gained through long term vision, insight and hard work with both organizations and exchange of ideas and challenges will benefit the medical education system in India and help tens of thousands of medical graduates coming from India to have recognition in the US.

AAPI educationExpressing appreciation for Dr. Edara and Dr. Raval for taking the lead in facilitating interaction and dialogue between the Medical Education Boards of India and the United States, Dr. Anjana Samadder, President of AAPI said, “Since its inception over four decades ago, AAPI has been in the forefront advocating for medical school education reform and for the medical graduates from India to be treated on par with their counterparts in India. India is already leading the global pharmaceutical industry, and rebooting medical education will help India enter the league of leaders in healthcare around the world. The meeting today was a great start, and I look forward to AAPI continuing to lead such efforts in the coming years benefitting the medical fraternity.” For more information on AAPI and its many initiatives, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

AAPI Partners With CLIRNET to Unveil Transformative Mentorship & Observership Model During  the 17th Global Healthcare Summit

●      The initiative will provide Indian doctors with the opportunity to learn from experienced AAPI physicians and apply for observerships in the USA in various medical specialties

●      CLIRNET and AAPI will facilitate interactive sessions, webinars, and forums, fostering collaborative learning and the exchange of medical knowledge

●      The initiative extends beyond general medicine, focusing on various specialties to advance medical research and address healthcare challenges

New Delhi, India (January 2nd, 2023)  In continuing its efforts to collaborate with and expands its numerous initiatives, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) that represents a conglomeration of more than 80,000 practicing physicians in the United States, and  serving as the platform for more than 40,000 medical students, residents and fellows of Indian origin, has entered into a ground breaking partnership with CLIRNET, India’s leading digital healthcare platform with the objective of running a Mentorship & Observership program jointly.

While announcing the new initiative at the 17th Global Healthcare Summit, Dr. Anjana Samadder, President of AAPI, emphasized the imperative for healthcare professionals to stay at the forefront of innovation. She also highlighted that the collaboration between AAPI and CLIRNET marks a significant milestone in advancing clinical training in India.

Saurav Kasera, Co-Founder of CLIRNET said, “We’re excited to partner with AAPI in this groundbreaking venture. This collaboration is more than just sharing knowledge; it’s about forging a future where Indian healthcare professionals are equipped with global expertise, ultimately elevating patient care and medical standards in India.”

The 17th annual GHS themed ‘Cutting Edge in Healthcare & Artificial Intelligence,’ is being held in collaboration with the Global Association of Indian Medical Students and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi from January 1st t0 7th in New Delhi and Manipal, India.

20240102 144200The GHS began here at AAIS this morning with an eloquent address by Dr. Anupam Sibel, GHS Chair – New Delhi, who spoke on India becoming Vishavaguru in almost all areas of international standing, including in healthcare, technology, finance and scientific research, The scientific sessions moderated and presented by world renowned physicians of Indian origin are being attended by Fellows, Residents and Medical students at AIIMS and the dozens of delegates from the United States.

The Mentorship & Observership Model aims to provide valuable inputs and expertise from AAPI medical experts in USA to young and emerging healthcare professionals in India. Mentorship, a crucial component of medical training, is an important component in enhancing career development, professional satisfaction, and overall well-being of trainees. The program will also offer doctors in India the opportunity to apply for observerships with AAPI physicians in the USA across various medical specialties.

As per the agreement, experienced AAPI physicians will facilitate interactive sessions, webinars, and forums, encouraging collaborative learning and the exchange of clinical knowledge. AAPI is committed to training approximately 200,000 physicians in the coming year, focusing on general medicine and various specialties addressing evolving healthcare needs.

The intent of the initiative is to involve 60% of AAPI practitioners in training programs to contribute their expertise to shape the next generation of healthcare professionals.

The Mentorship & Observership Model represents a paradigm shift in clinical education and global collaboration. This initiative is poised to significantly contribute to the professional growth of healthcare practitioners across India including the remotest of places, fostering a culture of continuous learning and innovation in the healthcare sector.

CLIRNET stands as the world’s largest UGC (user-generated content) platform for doctors. The platform activities led by eminent institutions & physicians, spanning a multitude of specialties, have garnered active participation from lacs of doctors, establishing CLIRNET as a premier hub for knowledge dissemination, UGC and professional collaboration.

Physicians of Indian Origin in the United States are reputed to be leading health care providers, holding crucial positions in various hospitals and health care facilities around the nation and the world. Known to be a leading ethnic medical organization that represents nearly 100,000 physicians and fellows of Indian Origin in the US and being their voice and providing a forum to its members to collectively work together to meet their diverse needs, AAPI members are proud to contribute to the wellbeing of their motherland India, and their adopted land, the United States.

Founded in 1982, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin represents a conglomeration of more than 80,000 practicing physicians in the United States and over 40,000 medical students, residents and fellows of Indian origin in this country, who serve 1 in every 7 people in the USA. For more details, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

ITServe Members Serve As Judges At The United States Congressional App Challenge Contest

Members of ITServe Alliance, the largest association of IT Services organizations across the United States, comprising of over 2200 small and medium-sized businesses were chosen to be and were part of the Judges Panel at the prestigious United States Congressional App Challenge Contest held last month.

App ChallengeEstablished by members of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2013, the Congressional App Challenge is designed to engage student creativity and encourage their participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education fields. The nationwide contest allows high school students from across the country to compete with other students who reside in their congressional district by creating and exhibiting their software application, or “APP” for mobile, tablet, or computer devices on a platform of their choice.

During the event organized by Illinois’s 11th Congressional District, Vinay Mahajan addressed the APP participants and congratulated the winner, a 10th grader from Illinois who developed the Dermidetect APP, a skin cancer detector using AI.

“We are extremely proud that Omprakash Nakka, Tanuj Gundlapalli, Jagan Chitiprolu, and Venkat Yerubandi, allVinay Mahajan active members of ITServe had the privilege of serving as Judges for the Congressional App Challenge Program,” said Mr. Vinay Mahajan, President of ITServe Alliance. “Such contests across the nation by Congressional Offices is very encouraging of our young and aspiring entrepreneurs and is in sync with the objectives of ITServe Alliance in promoting and advocating for local talents and resources that are aimed at the United States maintaining its leadership in technology and innovation,” Mahajan added.

Siva Moopanar, Director of ITServe Alliance Policy Advocacy Committee (PAC), who has been instrumental in coordinating with the Congressional Offices for ITServe’s participation in the Congressional APP Challenge said, “We acknowledge that this program provides a great opportunity for us at ITServe to engage with Lawmakers and make a positive impact on our upcoming generation of innovators in Science and Technology.”

Congressional App JudgesITServe recognizes that this is a great program and has plans to engage with more Congressmen for similar opportunities in the coming years.  ITServe has offered allocating funds from its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) STEM Funds to support this program by collaborating directly with the congressional App challenge organizers. ITServe has advocated for and has invested Millions of Dollars on its STEM Education Program to promote the “American Ingenuity Account” to fund State-administered grants for STEM education and worker training.

The Congressional App Challenge is sponsored by the Internet Education Foundation (IEF), which assists offices in hosting the challenges in their individual districts. Those interested in participating may visit the Congressional App Challenge website for more details. Participation in the contest is at the discretion of each Congress Member office. Please visit the Congressional App Challenge website to confirm your district’s participation and obtain guidance on entry guidelines and other details.

ITServe Alliance represents many prestigious IT companies functioning with similar interests across the United States. With an active membership of 2,200 + members who are small & medium-sized companies, ITServe has 21 Chapters and doing business all over the U.S. Together, the Itserve members have 175,000+ IT professionals employed throughout the U.S and generate over $12 billion in revenue annually. Its members play a critical role in developing and maintaining essential IT systems for corporations, governments, and various organizations. For information on ITServe and its many noble initiatives, please visit: www.itserve.org

Rep. Ami Bera Awards $225K In Support Of College Readiness Initiative

Indian American  Representative Ami Bera has announced that Improve Your Tomorrow, a Sacramento-based nonprofit, has been chosen to receive a federal award of $225,900 per year to enhance college readiness for youth in the Sacramento area.

The funding, facilitated through AmeriCorps VISTA, will sustain ten year-round service positions at the local level, a release from the congressman’s office said. Improve Your Tomorrow is dedicated to empowering and uplifting young men of color across California by providing support for them to pursue and successfully complete their college education.

“I am thrilled to share that Improve Your Tomorrow has been chosen to receive over $225,000 in federal funding, furthering their vital mission of empowering Sacramento young men of color to pursue and graduate from college,” said Rep Bera.

“This kind of unwavering support from Congress member Ami Bera and AmeriCorps California showcases a commitment to expanding service opportunities that address critical achievement gaps within our education system,” said Michael Lynch, CEO and co-founder of Improve Your Tomorrow.

“Thanks to the advocacy of youth champions like Congressman Bera, Improve Your Tomorrow will harness the transformative power of the VISTA program—a pinnacle of professional service opportunities in our state. This investment in at-promise youth will undoubtedly propel improved outcomes for the thousands of young men of color we are dedicated to serving,” he added.

In addition to the announced award, AmeriCorps will contribute over $68,950 annually in education scholarships for the AmeriCorps VISTA members who receive support from this award. These scholarships aim to assist with financing college education, vocational training, or the repayment of student loans.

AmeriCorps, the federal agency for service and volunteering, unites individuals to address the nation’s most critical challenges through national service and volunteering initiatives. Annually, tens of thousands of AmeriCorps members engage in service at over 21,000 schools, nonprofits, community and faith-based organizations, as well as state, tribal, and local governments throughout the country.

Australia Announces Changes To Visa Rules, Including International Students

Australia boosted its annual migration numbers last year to help businesses recruit staff to fill shortages after the Covid-19 pandemic brought strict border controls

Australia on Monday said it would tighten visa rules for international students and low-skilled workers that could halve its migrant intake over the next two years as the government looks to overhaul what it said was a “broken” migration system.

Under the new policies, international students would need to secure higher ratings on English tests and there would be more scrutiny on a student’s second visa application that would prolong their stay.

“Our strategy will bring migration numbers back to normal,” Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said during a media briefing. “But it’s not just about numbers. It’s not just about this moment and the experience of migration our country is having at this time. This is about Australia’s future.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese over the weekend said Australia’s migration numbers needed to be wound back to a “sustainable level,” adding that “the system is broken.”

O’Neil said the government’s targeted reforms were already putting downward pressure on net overseas migration and will further contribute to an expected decline in migrant numbers.

The decision comes after net immigration was expected to have peaked at a record 510,000 in 2022-23. Official data showed it was forecast to fall to about a quarter of a million in 2024-25 and 2025-26, roughly in line with pre-Covid levels. O’Neil said the increase in net overseas migration in 2022-23 was mostly driven by international students.

Shares of IDP Education, which provides placement and education services to international students, were down more than 3% in afternoon trade.

Australia boosted its annual migration numbers last year to help businesses recruit staff to fill shortages after the Covid-19 pandemic brought strict border controls, and kept foreign students and workers out for nearly two years. But the sudden influx of foreign workers and students has exacerbated pressure on an already tight rental market, with homelessness on the rise in the country.

A survey done for the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper on Monday said 62% of Australian voters said the country’s migration intake was too high.

Long reliant on immigration to supply what is now one of the tightest labour markets in the world, Australia’s Labor government has pushed to speed up the entry of highly skilled workers and smooth their path to permanent residency.

A new specialist visa for highly skilled workers will be set up with the processing time set at one week, helping businesses recruit top migrants amid tough competition with other developed economies.

India Announces Scholarship Program For Diaspora Children (SPDC) Scheme For Year 2023 -24

India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India has launched the Scholarship Programme for Diaspora Children (SPDC) scheme for the academic year 2023-24 to assist the Children of Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs)/ Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) and Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) who are pursuing Undergraduate courses in several disciplines (except medical courses) in Indian Universities/Institutes.

The SPDC scheme provides them financial assistance towards tuition fee, admission fee and post admission charges. Since its launch in 2006-2007, the scheme guidelines have been revised over the years to increase the number of scholarships to 150 and the beneficiary can be of any country provided certain conditions are met. (Revised SPDC guidelines are at https://spdcindia.gov.in/login/guideline.php).

Following are the main features of the SPDC for the academic year 2023-24:-

(i) The SPDC Scheme is applicable to eligible applicants from NRI/PIO/OCI community in all foreign countries.

(ii) Students who have already secured admission in Indian institutions are eligible to apply. The scheme can only be availed by 1st year Undergraduate students (not 2nd or 3rd year students) as it provides scholarship for the entire duration of the Undergraduate course.

(iii) The scheme is open to following two categories in the age group of 17 to 21 years, as on July 31, 2023:

(a) Children of PIOs/OCIs/NRIs who have studied outside India in any of the foreign countries; and

(b) Children of Indian workers in ECR countries (who have studied in India or abroad).

(iv) The total number of scholarships under the SPDC programme is 150, out of which 50 slots are reserved for Children of Indian Workers in ECR countries. Further, out of these 50 slots, one-third of slots (i.e. 17 slots ) shall be reserved for those Children of Indian Workers in ECR countries who have studied in India.

(v) The selection of applicants for scholarships will be on Merit-cum-Means basis.

(vi) Applicants from all the categories must have passed grade 11th and 12th from abroad. However, under the category of Children of Indian Workers in ECR countries, who have studied in India, the applicant must have passed grade 11th and 12th or equivalent examination from a system of education recognized by the Association of Indian Universities (AIU).

(vii) Following institutions are covered under the SPDC Scheme:

(a) Central Universities of India offering Undergraduate courses;

(b) ‘A’ Grade institutions accredited by National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) and recognized by UGC.

(c) National Institutes of Technology (NITs), Schools of Planning and Architecture and Indian Institutes of Information and Technology (IIITs) through DASA Scheme.

(viii) The amount of scholarship admissible would be 75% of the total Institutional Economic Cost (IEC) subject to a maximum of US$ 4,000/- per annum. IEC includes Tuition fees, Hostel fees & other institutional charges (Food charges are excluded).

(ix) The total monthly income of the parent(s) of the NRIs/PIOs/OCIs category applicants should not exceed an amount equivalent to US$ 5000/- and the total monthly income of the parent(s) of the Indian Workers in ECR category applicants should not exceed an amount equivalent of US$ 3000/-.

  1. Indian youth/Indian origin youth, who have taken admission in courses in India in Academic Year 2023-24 and are eligible for the scheme, can apply for the scholarship through SPDC portal (https://spdcindia.gov.in) at the earliest.

Modi’s Canada Policy Impacts Indian Student Applicants To Canada, Drops By 40%

The diplomatic tug of war betwwen the Modi-led Indian government and the Canadian government has hit the growing flow Indian students aspiring to come to this North Americann nation seeking higher education.

The number of Indian students choosing Canada as a destination for further studies has seen a downtick, as per data for the period of July to October 2023. As per data reported by Better Dwelling, new study permits from India dropped from a total of 145,881 last year between July-October to 86,562 in the same period of 2023, representing a 40 per cent decline.

The report said that overall applications have declined by 9 per cent compared to 2022, despite being observed annually that the period between July to August shows growth ahead of September when terms commence.

The drop in applications can be attributed to the ongoing diplomatic row that India and Canada are tied up in, Following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations in mid-September about India’s involvement in the death of Canadian national Khalistani Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

The decline was reported months after the federal government announced plans to consider a cap on international students in the face of Canada’s housing crisis. In August, Federal Housing, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Sean Fraser told reporters that he planned to sit down with post-secondary institutions to find out what can be done to make it easier to find living space for students.

Modi’s Canada Policy Impacts Indian Student Applicants To Canada Drops By 40% 2“If they’re going to continue to bring in record numbers of students, that they are being part of the solution as well by making sure that they have a place to live,” Fraser had said. He called out institutions for exploiting students by enrolling more than they had space for, which in turn also hurt the housing market.

“There are good private institutions out there and separating the wheat from the chaff is going to be a big focus of the work that I tried to do with [Immigration Minister Marc] Miller.”

Earlier this year, a record number of Indian students faced the threat of deportation from Canada after being accused of entering the country on the base of fraudulent letters. These letters were used to obtain their entry visa into the country.

While the fraud was attributed to the agents in India who processed their applications, students also questioned Canada’s federal government for granting the visas in the first place. The government ordered a temporary freeze on the deportation of these students after mass protests.

403 Indian Students Lost Abroad Since 2018: Government Addresses Concerns, Canada Tops List with 91 Fatalities

The government announced on Thursday that 403 Indian students have lost their lives abroad since 2018 due to a variety of reasons, including natural causes, accidents, and medical conditions. Canada has reported the highest number of fatalities among 34 nations, with 91 Indian students succumbing to different circumstances.

Minister of State for External Affairs, V Muraleedharan, provided this information in a written response to a question raised in Rajya Sabha, stating, “According to the information available with the ministry, 403 incidents of death of Indian students abroad have been reported since 2018.” To address the well-being of Indian students studying abroad, heads of mission/post and senior officials engage in regular interactions with universities and educational institutions.

Canada leads the list with 91 reported deaths of Indian students since 2018, followed by the United Kingdom (48), Russia (40), the United States (36), Australia (35), Ukraine (21), Germany (20), Cyprus (14), and Italy and the Philippines (10 each), according to data submitted by the ministry. Minister Muraleedharan emphasized, “The safety and security of Indian students abroad is one of the foremost priorities for the Government of India.”

He assured that Indian missions and posts remain vigilant, closely monitoring the well-being of students. In case of any untoward incident, prompt action is taken by engaging with the authorities of the host country to ensure a thorough investigation and appropriate punishment for the perpetrators. The government is committed to providing comprehensive consular assistance to distressed Indian students, including emergency medical care and lodging, whenever necessary.

Addressing concerns about the high number of student deaths, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi referred to the increasing influx of Indian students into Canada. Bagchi stated during a weekly briefing, “I don’t know if this is an issue that merits taking up with the government. There are individual incidents where there has been foul play and others….Our consulates do reach out to families; we also take up such cases with the local authorities.”

In essence, the government’s response highlights the tragic loss of 403 Indian students abroad since 2018 and the varied causes contributing to these incidents. The emphasis on the safety and security of Indian students, coupled with ongoing efforts by Indian missions and posts, reflects the commitment to addressing concerns and providing assistance in distressing situations.

Minister Muraleedharan’s assurance of swift action and engagement with host country authorities underscores the proactive approach taken to investigate incidents and ensure justice. Additionally, the acknowledgment of the increasing number of Indian students in Canada as a factor in the higher death toll aims to contextualize the statistics and prompt further examination.

The government’s commitment to consular assistance, encompassing medical care and lodging, reaffirms the dedication to supporting distressed Indian students abroad. The complex nature of these incidents, involving various countries and circumstances, underscores the need for continuous monitoring and diplomatic efforts to address challenges faced by Indian students studying overseas.

US State Dept Highlights Record 600,000 Student Visas, The Highest In Any Year Since FY 2017

The US State Department has highlighted that it has given out record number of visas during the previous financial year. From October 2022 through September 2023, the Department has achieved a near-record level of nonimmigrant visas, surpassing 10 million globally.

Notably, half of the U.S. embassies and consulates have adjudicated more nonimmigrant visas than ever before during this period. In addition to the nearly historic total of over 10.4 million nonimmigrant visas issued worldwide, the department has issued nearly eight million visitor visas for business and tourism, marking the highest number in any fiscal year since 2016.

International students at U.S. colleges and universities contribute up to $38 billion annually to the U.S. economy, with the department issuing more than 600,000 student visas, the highest in any year since FY 2017. The embassy and consulates in India have issued an all-time record of more than 140,000 student visas.

In recent years, international visitors have made significant contributions, providing as much as $239 billion in annual spending to the U.S. economy and supporting an estimated 9.5 million American jobs, the Department noted. It has issued a record-breaking 442,000 visas to temporary and seasonal workers, specifically addressing the demand for workers in agriculture and other sectors where there is a shortage of available U.S. workers.

The Department issued 590,000 nonimmigrant visas to high-skilled workers and executives, enabling them to work alongside American experts. Additionally,  nearly 365,000 nonimmigrant visas were issued to airline and shipping crew members, recognizing their essential role in maintaining global transportation networks.

Alarming Rise Of Heart-Related Out-Of-Hospital Deaths In India: Time For Immediate Action

A recent Newspaper report from Gujarat highlighted the increasing incidence of heart-attack-related deaths in India. 1,052 persons died due to heart-related conditions in the past 6 months. Most of the victims are in the 11-25 age group. Sudden injuries of the chest sustained in sports such as Cricket (“Commotio Cordis”) are lethal if not managed immediately with on-the-spot Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) by any nearby bystander.

As announced by the State education minister, the decision to provide CPR training to nearly two lakhs of schoolteachers and college professors is commendable as it might save thousands of lives annually that would otherwise could be lost with no emergency intervention.

According to Chicago-based Indo-US Resuscitation Training Expert Dr. Vemuri S Murthy, the simple technique of hands-only (compressions-only) CPR is easy to learn. Many organizations, such as the American Heart Association and American Red Cross, have in-person training programs in addition to CPR promotional videos.  CPR training is mandatory for high schools in most of the states in USA currently.

Alarming Rise Of Heart Related Out Of Hospital Deaths In IndiaDr. Murthy, an Honorary Advisor to the Government of Odisha (Health and Family Welfare), recommends that all the State Governments in India initiate statewide Community, Police, and High-school CPR programs to “Save Lives” in Sudden Cardiac Arrests due to any cause. Odisha was the first state in India to implement statewide CPR programs among Odisha communities. The Hon’ble Chief Minister of Odisha, Mr. Naveen Patnaik, officially launched the governmental “Saving Lives with Bystander CPR Training” project on February 1,2023 at the Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar. The project’s key players include service-oriented Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organizations, Odisha, and Sri Jagannatha Service Foundation. The ongoing community programs have trained so far, a few thousands of community members and students, including 1000 police personnel. Dr. Murthy hopes to see all the states in India initiate community CPR training programs in the near future with support from their respective state governments and non-governmental organizations.

Dr. Murthy, who has been actively involved with community CPR programs in the USA and India for about two decades, stresses the critical need to train the public in   “AEDs”(Automated External Defibrillators) also along with hands-only CPR to save many more lives than with Hands-only CPR alone before the arrival of EMS (Emergency Medical Services). He recommends public access to AEDs in places such as health clubs, shopping malls, train and bus stations, and at all community, religious, and sports events.

Dr. Murthy, an Associate Professor (Adjunct) in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois, is establishing a state-of-the-art Community CPR Training Center with multi-organizational support at the National India Hub in Schaumburg, Illinois. In addition to training communities, the center will initiate “Training the Trainers in CPR” program in High Schools and plan evidence-based research in Resuscitation Medicine involving Medical Students and Residents at the Hub.

Hands-only CPR and early Access to AED (Automated External Defibrillator) can save many lives in Sudden Cardiac arrests

Manipal Hospitals Launch Training Program With BAPIO

Manipal Hospitals, a prominent healthcare provider in India, has  announced its collaboration with the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) and the British Training Academy (BTA). The partnership was formalized through the signing of an agreement by Dr. Manish Rai, hospital director of Manipal Hospital Old Airport Road and professor Parag Singhal, chief executive officer of BAPIO UK.

Manipal Hospitals has partnered with BAPIO- training academy to establish avenues for young pediatricians in India to access high-quality training in super-specialty fields. The program involves a comprehensive one-year pediatric post-graduation and super-specialty training within Manipal Hospitals.

The program involves a comprehensive one-year pediatric post-graduation and super-specialty training within Manipal Hospitals. Furthermore, it offers participants the opportunity to enhance their skills through additional training in various hospitals in the UK over three subsequent years.

The selected doctors for the program will receive a general medicine council license, enabling them to practice in the UK. They will undergo training under the guidance of highly experienced and skilled faculty members from both Indo-UK sources, representing Manipal Hospitals and BAPIO, respectively.

Both BAPIO and BTA are affiliated with the UK’s National Health Service and actively collaborate to support the recruitment and retention of medical staff, advocate for diversity and equality, and facilitate knowledge exchange through research and innovation.

Singhal, CEO of BAPIO UK, said, “We are deeply honored for this opportunity to collaborate with one of the leading Healthcare hospitals in India with state-of-the-art facilities and highly skilled expert doctors.”

“With this association, the focus of BAPIO and BTA is to provide the doctors of the Indian Subcontinent with unique opportunities to facilitate a two-way flow of knowledge and expertise between overseas colleagues and the NHS, thereby building strong Indo-UK relationships. We look forward to creating new avenues for academic collaboration, innovation, and clinical excellence, benefiting patients and healthcare professionals,” he added.

Americans’ Trust in Scientists Continue to Decline

A new Pew Research Center survey finds the share of Americans who say science has had a mostly positive effect on society has fallen and there’s been a continued decline in public trust in scientists.

Key findings

image7Impact of science on society

Overall, 57% of Americans say science has had a mostly positive effect on society. This share is down 8 percentage points since November 2021 and down 16 points since before the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

About a third (34%) now say the impact of science on society has been equally positive as negative. A small share (8%) think science has had a mostly negative impact on society.

Trust in scientists

When it comes to the standing of scientists, 73% of U.S. adults have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in scientists to act in the public’s best interests. But trust in scientists is 14 points lower than it was at the early stages of the pandemic.

The share expressing the strongest level of trust in scientists – saying they have a great deal of confidence in them – has fallen from 39% in 2020 to 23% today.

As trust in scientists has fallen, distrust has grown: Roughly a quarter of Americans (27%) now say they have not too much or no confidence in scientists to act in the public’s best interests, up from 12% in April 2020.

Ratings of medical scientists mirror the trend seen in ratings of scientists generally. Read Chapter 1 of the report for a detailed analysis of this data.

How scientists compare with other prominent groups

Why does public trust in scientists matter?

People with greater trust in scientists are more likely to align their own beliefs and actions with expert guidance and understanding.

For instance, those with high trust are more likely to have gotten vaccines for COVID-19 and the flu. They are also more likely to say human activity contributes to climate change.

In addition, scientific leaders are concerned that differences in levels of trust by things like party identification, race and ethnicity, and education could contribute to the benefits of science being spread unevenly across society.

Americans’ Trust in Scientists Continue to Decline (CNN)
Picture: CNN

The Center survey of 8,842 U.S. adults conducted Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 2023, finds that, despite recent declines in ratings, scientists and medical scientists continue to be held in high regard compared with other prominent groups in society. Smaller shares of Americans express confidence in business leaders, religious leaders, journalists and elected officials to act in the public’s best interests. As with scientists, most of these groups have seen their ratings decline in recent years.

Americans have expressed low trust in federal government and other institutions, like Congress, for decades. And political polarization – the widening gap between the views of Republicans and Democrats across a broad range of issues and attitudes – has come to be a dominant feature of American political life.

Differences between Republicans and Democrats in ratings of scientists and science

Declining levels of trust in scientists and medical scientists have been particularly pronounced among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents over the past several years. In fact, nearly four-in-ten Republicans (38%) now say they have not too much or no confidence at all in scientists to act in the public’s best interests. This share is up dramatically from the 14% of Republicans who held this view in April 2020. Much of this shift occurred during the first two years of the pandemic and has persisted in more recent surveys.

image8Confidence in scientists has also moved lower among Democrats. The share of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents with a great deal of confidence in scientists – which initially rose in the pandemic’s first year – now stands at 37%, down from a high of 55% in November 2020. But unlike Republicans, a large majority of Democrats (86%) continue to express at least a fair amount of confidence in scientists to act in the public’s best interests. The overall differences in partisan views remain much more pronounced today than they were prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

One of the starkest illustrations of polarization in views of science is the drop in the share of Republicans who view the societal impact of science positively.

Fewer than half of Republicans (47%) now say that science has had a mostly positive effect on society. In 2019, 70% of Republicans said that science has had a mostly positive effect.

image9A majority of Democrats (69%) continue to say science has had a mostly positive effect on society, though this share is 8 points lower than it was in 2019.

Republicans were largely critical of the country’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. For instance, large shares said too little priority was given to respecting individuals’ choices, supporting businesses and economic activity, and meeting the needs of K-12 students. In addition, many Republicans felt that public health officials’ personal views had too much influence on policy and that officials were too quick to dismiss views that challenged their scientific understanding.

Government investments in science

Despite declines in ratings of scientists and science, a large majority of Americans continue to see government investments in science as worthwhile. And most place at least some importance on the United States being a world leader in scientific achievements.

image10About eight-in-ten Americans (78%) say government investments in scientific research are usually worthwhile for society. Far fewer (20%) think these investments are generally not worthwhile. Large majorities across demographic and education groups see government investments in scientific research as worthwhile, as do large majorities of both Democrats and Republicans.

In addition, 52% of Americans think it is very important for the U.S. to be a world leader in scientific achievements; an additional 37% think this is somewhat important. These shares are more or less unchanged since last year.

Misinformation Fuels Surge in Food Bank Usage Among International Students in Canada

In London, Ontario, a surge in visits to the local food bank, particularly by international students, has been fueled by a misunderstanding of how Canadian food banks operate, compounded by misleading information circulating on social media. Glen Pearson, co-executive director of the London Food Bank, reported a 43% increase in visits at the beginning of the school year, with a noticeable rise in requests from post-secondary students, many of whom were international students from Fanshawe College.

According to Pearson, the surge in demand was exacerbated by social media posts, including a YouTube video in Malayalam, a language spoken in southern India. The video suggested that Canadian food banks could provide a regular supply of free food, contrary to their intended purpose as emergency resources. Pearson expressed concern about the sudden increase, stating, “It caused some concern as to whether or not we would have enough supply.”

This situation is not unique to London. A food bank in Brampton had to close its doors to international students due to overwhelming demand that the food bank couldn’t meet. The London Food Bank’s experience prompted a response from Fanshawe College administration, leading to an email sent to all students to clarify the proper role of food banks. Once informed, students were apologetic for the misunderstanding.

John Riddell of the Fanshawe Student Union acknowledged the need to counter misinformation circulating among students. He clarified that while there might be a misunderstanding about the purpose of food bank resources, there is a significant number of students in legitimate need of support. Fanshawe College operates a food bank for students called The Sharing Shop, providing grocery gift cards to students in need a few times a year. Referrals can be obtained from campus learning advisers.

Similarly, Western’s University Students’ Council (USC) manages a food bank that offers food hampers to students demonstrating need through an online request form. Bianca Gouveia, vice-president of student services at USC, highlighted the high demand for their services, with nearly 600 hamper requests this year. The USC transitioned from in-person visits to an online request form in September to better handle the increasing number of requests.

Gouveia acknowledged the financial challenges faced by students, stating, “Students are feeling pressure on all fronts for the cost of living.” The surge in food bank usage among students reflects the broader struggles many Canadians, including students, face due to rising costs of essentials such as housing and food.

A combination of rising living costs and misinformation, particularly on social media, has led to a significant increase in international students seeking assistance from food banks in London and other parts of Canada. Efforts by college administrations and student unions to clarify the purpose of food banks have been essential in addressing the issue. While dispelling misinformation, it remains crucial to recognize and address the legitimate needs of students facing financial challenges in Canada.

Despite Diplomatic Tensions, Canada Remains a Preferred Choice for Indian Students, Says Expert

In an exclusive interview with NDTV on Friday, prominent education consultant Viral Doshi expressed his belief that Canada will remain a favored destination for Indian students despite the recent India-Canada diplomatic tensions. Doshi also discussed the emergence of the UK as a top choice for Indian students and his encouragement for students to return to India, emphasizing the country’s vibrancy.

Doshi highlighted several key factors that have contributed to Canada’s popularity among Indian students over the years, including its welcoming and friendly atmosphere, abundant research and extracurricular opportunities, excellent job prospects, and the allure of obtaining permanent residency. While acknowledging concerns stemming from the recent political fallout, Doshi remained optimistic about the future of Indian student applications to Canada.

Doshi noted that many students and parents currently harbor concerns about visa processing times, the reception of Indian students in Canada, and post-education job opportunities. Despite these apprehensions, Doshi believed that applications would persist, albeit with a potential minor decrease, and applicants would adopt a wait-and-see approach.

He emphasized the reassuring role played by Canadian universities, which have actively communicated with students and parents to allay fears and encourage applications. Doshi was confident that these efforts would help maintain the appeal of Canada as a study destination.

When asked about alternatives to Canada, Doshi acknowledged the popularity of the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia among Indian students. He pointed out that a majority of students choose one of these three countries for their higher education, while a smaller percentage opt for Australia, Europe, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Dubai.

While Europe is gaining some traction, particularly in the Netherlands, France, and Germany for technical education, Doshi emphasized that these countries haven’t experienced the same exponential growth as the primary destinations. He highlighted the challenges of language barriers and limited networking opportunities in European colleges.

Doshi stressed that the UK is emerging as a robust alternative for Indian students, driven by its competitive cost, shorter program durations, and improved job placement opportunities due to favorable visa policies. In the US, education costs in private colleges are a concern, but admissions are still expected to increase as students seek diverse options. Singapore, on the other hand, offers a limited selection of colleges, with Singapore Management University, National University of Singapore, and Nanyang Technological University as the main choices.

In light of the India-Canada diplomatic tensions, there have been concerns regarding the prospects for Indian students already studying in Canada and their future job opportunities. Viral Doshi, a prominent educational consultant, shared insights on this matter.

Doshi acknowledged the concerns among Indian students and their families but expressed his belief that the political fallout would not significantly impact employment in Canada. He emphasized that Canadian employers value Indian students for their hard work and academic excellence, making them attractive candidates for various companies. Doshi reassured that the political situation would not be a decisive factor in job placements and that Canadians are known for their welcoming and fair approach.

When asked if students in Canada should explore job opportunities in other countries after completing their studies, Doshi pointed out the challenges related to visas and suggested that returning to India could be a favorable choice. He highlighted India as a vibrant and dynamic place for career growth and encouraged students to consider working in India. For those aspiring to return to Canada, he advised gaining work experience in India before pursuing post-graduate studies in Canada, anticipating improved circumstances in the future.

Doshi emphasized that Indian educational institutions have matured and now offer high-quality education, making graduates from prestigious Indian colleges competitive in the job market. He noted that recruiters in India often prefer candidates with Indian education due to their adaptability and suitability for the Indian work environment. He encouraged students to pursue overseas education primarily for the educational experience and holistic development it offers, rather than expecting a distinct advantage in the Indian job market.

In closing, Doshi advised students to keep their options open when applying for colleges abroad. He recommended applying to multiple countries and making decisions in April or May of the following year when the situation is expected to improve, ensuring a balanced approach to their international education plans.

Stanford scientist, after decades of study, concludes: We don’t have free will

In the past, epilepsy was misunderstood as being caused by factors like the moon or brain phlegm, leading to the stigmatization of those suffering from seizures. People believed it was linked to witchcraft or demonic possession, resulting in tragic consequences. Nowadays, we recognize epilepsy as a neurological condition, and we no longer blame individuals for accidents caused by seizures. This represents progress, but according to Stanford University neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky, there’s still much to understand.

Having spent over 40 years studying humans and primates, Sapolsky has come to a controversial conclusion: most human behavior is beyond our conscious control, just like seizures or the beating of our hearts. He argues that individuals who commit harmful actions have no more control over their fate than those who become unintended victims. He urges us to stop attributing actions to free will, as he believes it doesn’t exist.

Sapolsky acknowledges that his viewpoint is unconventional. Most neuroscientists, philosophers, and the general population believe in some degree of free will. Free will is integral to how we perceive ourselves and plays a role in our achievements and failures. Sapolsky, who dislikes interpersonal conflict, hesitated to write his new book, “Determined: A Science of Life Without Free Will,” due to the potential for controversy.

Analyzing human behavior through a single discipline allows for the possibility of personal choice. However, after a diverse career spanning multiple disciplines, Sapolsky contends that it’s intellectually dishonest to conclude anything other than free will being a myth. He asserts that accepting this fact will lead to a more just society.

His book “Determined,” a follow-up to his 2017 bestseller “Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst,” explores the neurochemical factors influencing human behavior, from the milliseconds leading to a trigger pull to long-term societal influences.

Sapolsky takes his argument a step further, asserting that since no single neuron or brain can act without external influences, free will cannot logically exist.
While it’s widely accepted that various factors affect our decisions, can everything be attributed to factors beyond our control? Can we not make choices about our careers, relationships, or even simple actions like picking up a pen?

According to Sapolsky, even seemingly insignificant actions like picking up a pen are influenced by subconscious impulses. These impulses are shaped by external factors, like missing lunch or subliminal associations. Additionally, factors that brought individuals to a particular moment, such as confronting a professor, are subtly influenced by their backgrounds and cultural influences.

Sapolsky points out how algorithms predict people’s actions based on their online activities, similar to how the forces behind our decisions bring us to specific choices. Many external factors combine to lead us to decisions, making it challenging to determine how much we truly “choose.”
Sapolsky’s personal journey is intertwined with his beliefs. Raised in an Orthodox Jewish household, he was deeply connected to religion. However, a revelation in his early teens reshaped his worldview. He came to the conclusion that God doesn’t exist, free will is an illusion, and humans are essentially on their own. This transformative moment has guided his path ever since.

Sapolsky’s assertion that free will is a myth challenges conventional beliefs, but he believes that accepting this notion could lead to a fairer society. While it’s a provocative stance, it encourages us to reevaluate how we perceive and judge human behavior.

Skeptics may raise questions to counter his arguments: How can someone raised in a deeply religious, conservative household transform into a self-proclaimed liberal atheist?

According to him, change is always possible, but it stems from external stimuli. Sea slugs, for example, can learn to instinctively retreat from an electrical shock. In a similar vein, humans are altered by exposure to external events, often in unexpected ways.

He offers an example: a group of friends watches a biographical film about an inspiring activist. The next day, one friend applies to join the Peace Corps, while another enrolls in a filmmaking course after being captivated by the beautiful cinematography. The rest, however, express annoyance that they didn’t watch a Marvel movie.
Their responses were primed by various factors. Maybe one friend had heightened adrenaline due to a near miss with another car on the drive to the theater. Another might have been in a new relationship, flooded with oxytocin, the so-called love hormone. Each had different levels of dopamine and serotonin in their brains, unique cultural backgrounds, and varying sensitivities to sensory distractions in the theater. None consciously chose how the film’s stimulus would affect them, just as a sea slug didn’t “choose” to wince when shocked.

For proponents of determinism, the belief that a person in any situation couldn’t have acted differently than they did, his scientific support is reassuring.
Gregg Caruso, a philosopher at SUNY Corning, noted, “Who we are and what we do is ultimately the result of factors beyond our control, and because of this, we are never morally responsible for our actions in the sense that would make us truly deserving of praise and blame, punishment and reward.” He added, “I am in agreement with Sapolsky that life without belief in free will is not only possible but preferable.”

Caruso co-directs the Justice Without Retribution Network, which advocates for a focus on preventing future harm rather than assigning blame in response to criminal activity. This approach, concentrating on the causes of violent or antisocial behavior, he believes, would lead to more humane and effective practices and policies.
However, this viewpoint remains in the minority.

Sapolsky’s stance is challenged by Peter U. Tse, a neuroscientist from Dartmouth and author of the book “The Neural Basis of Free Will.” Tse argues that neural activity is highly variable, with identical inputs often yielding non-identical responses in individuals and populations. Instead of determining specific outcomes, inputs impose parameters. The vast variability at play suggests that our behavior isn’t predetermined.

Moreover, Tse asserts that promoting determinism is detrimental. He says, “Those who push the idea that we are nothing but deterministic biochemical puppets are responsible for enhancing psychological suffering and hopelessness in this world.”

Even those who believe biology constrains our choices are cautious about openly embracing this idea.

Saul Smilansky, a philosopher at the University of Haifa, disagrees with the notion that we can transcend all genetic and environmental constraints through sheer will. To build a just society, he argues, we must believe that we can. “Losing all belief in free will and moral responsibility would likely be catastrophic,” he contends, and encouraging such thinking is “dangerous, even irresponsible.”

A widely referenced 2008 study found that people who read passages dismissing the concept of free will were more prone to cheating on subsequent tests. Other studies suggest that individuals who feel less control over their actions are less concerned about making errors in their work and display increased aggression and reduced helpfulness.

Sapolsky addresses these concerns in his book, ultimately concluding that the effects observed in these experiments are too small and often not reproducible enough to support the idea that society will collapse if people believe they can’t control their destinies.

He finds a more persuasive critique in a short story by speculative fiction writer Ted Chiang titled “What’s Expected of Us.” In the story, a new technology convinces users that their choices are predetermined, leading them to lose their will to live.

Sapolsky acknowledges that the greatest risk of abandoning belief in free will is not that people will be inclined to commit wrongdoing, but that, devoid of a sense of personal agency, they may lose motivation to do anything at all.

“It may be dangerous to tell people that they don’t have free will,” Sapolsky concedes. “The vast majority of the time, I really think it’s a hell of a lot more humane.”
Sapolsky acknowledges that he won’t persuade most of his readers. Convincing people who have been harmed that wrongdoers deserve less blame due to their history of poverty is challenging. Similarly, convincing the privileged that their achievements deserve less praise because of their history of privilege is an uphill battle.
His true hope, he says, is to foster greater compassion. Perhaps, if people understand how profoundly an early history of trauma can rewire the brain, they will cease to yearn for harsh punishments. Perhaps, if individuals realize they have a brain condition such as depression or ADHD, they will stop resenting themselves for struggling with tasks that seem easier for others.

Sapolsky asserts that, as with previous generations’ beliefs that seizures were caused by witchcraft, some of our current beliefs about personal responsibility may ultimately be debunked by scientific discovery.

Sapolsky maintains that we are machines, remarkable in our ability to perceive our experiences and experience emotions. Hating a machine for its failures is senseless.
Yet there is one last thread he cannot resolve. “It is logically indefensible, ludicrous, meaningless to believe that something ‘good’ can happen to a machine,” he writes. “Nonetheless, I am certain that it is good if people feel less pain and more happiness.”

GOPIO-CT Organizes Meet And Greet With The New Students At UCONN

GOPIO-CT organized a highly successful Meet and Greet session with the new students enrolled at the University of Connecticut Business School on Friday, October 20th at the Hampton Inn
and Suites in Stamford, CT.

An Interactive Discussion Panel tiled “Tips on How to Market Oneself in America and to Succeed in America,” followed. It was moderated by GOPIO-CT President Dr. Jaya Daptardar MHA, Chief Strategy and Compliance Officer, Bridges Healthcare, Milford, CT.

Panelists were: Vijay Anand, CEO, Everest DX, Stamford, CT; Indira Yedavalli, Vice President, Franklin Templeton Investments, New York; Sushanth Krishnamurthy, Director of IT, UBS, Stamford, CT; Prashanthi Reddy, Esq, Immigration Attorney, New York, NY; Amit Lakhotia, Founding Principal ADH (A Real Estate Development and Management Company), Westport, CT; Padmini Viswanath MPH, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Manager, Last Mile, New York City; Anand Chavan, Senior Director of S&P Global Market Intelligence, New York. Many GOPIO-CT members also attended, so the students had one to one interaction with senior members of our community. The program was coordinated GOPIO Trustees Prasad Chintalapudi and Dr. Thomas Abraham.

New York Indian Consulate and GOPIO Manhattan Organize ‘Meet Greet’ for Students from India

The Consulate General of India in New York in cooperation with GOPIO Manhattan organized the ‘Meet and Greet Students from India’ studying in the Northeast to connect them to the community and providing mentoring opportunities as well as to raise awareness of Consular services to students from the Consulate. Students from many universities in the New York area
including Columbia, NYU, Tandon School of Engineering, Tauro, Pace, New York Institute of Technology, Rutgers, Univ. of Penn. and as far as Boston including Harvard and Babson participated in person and via Facebook Live.

The program started with a welcome by Deputy Consul General of Indian Dr. Varun Jeph, who emphasized the unique and strong relationship between India and the United States, highlighting
it as a comprehensive strategic partnership. He stressed the significance of the knowledge and education aspect, innovation, research engagement, and the role of international students in this
partnership. Dr. Jeph invited, Consulate General of India at New York, honorable Consul General Mr. Randhir Jaiswal addressed the gathering.

CG Jaiswal said, “In the United States, the concept of a knowledge partnership is extensive, and while there are challenges, there’s a lot of positivity coming from India, such as the success of
Chandrayaan and the historic visit of the Indian Prime Minister to Washington, resulting in new partnerships in technology and knowledge exchange. There’s a strong focus on supporting the Indian student community in the U.S. The speaker expressed well wishes for students studying and working in the U.S. and celebrating Diwali. He emphasized that the knowledge partnership
extends beyond the student community.”

Jaiswal added, “Over the past 20 years, three notable educational projects, including the Indian School of Business, Ashoka University in Haryana, and the upcoming “Passion” project, have emerged. The name “Passion” symbolizes the source from which knowledge flows. The speaker highlighted the growing number of Indian students studying abroad, contributing to India’s demographic dividend, and impacting global socio-economic and technological landscapes. The speaker welcomed the audience, engaged in conversation, and expressed gratitude for their presence.”

Following that, host of the evening Ms. Bhavya Gupta, Founder ACE Consultants and Secretary at GOPIO Manhattan, expressed pride in the large number of Indian students in the U.S. and hoped that the panel discussion would provide valuable insights to help these students adapt and succeed in the academic, social, and cultural aspects of American life. She mentioned the idea of the event is not only to come together and gain from the experiences and learnings of the accomplished panel, but also to become part of the Indian American community, as an extended family. The discussion aimed to better inform and educate the students about their future in the United States.

Ms. Gupta then invited, Dr. Thomas Abraham, Founder and Chairman of GOPIO International and advisor to GOPIO Manhattan, in collaboration to which the event took place, who addressed the gathering. Dr. Abraham said, “Around 50 years ago, when I arrived in New York as a student at Columbia University, communication with our homeland was very limited and expensive. Making an international call could cost up to $3 and take a whole day to connect. Back then, foreign students were assigned host families. However, in today’s networked world, we are all
connected through platforms like WhatsApp and social media. There are now 4.5 million people of Indian origin living in the United States, ready to support and guide you. Since 2018, we’ve
organized a program to welcome new students with a dinner event in Stamford, Connecticut. We shared this idea to do a program in New York’ve had support from the Consul General of Indian, even though we had to skip 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, in 2021 and beyond, we’ve resumed these welcome programs. This marks the fourth one, and we’ve invited students from colleges in the New York area, including some from Harvard. The United States is a fantastic country that provides opportunities for all. You can pursue any path, whether it’s a career in a large corporation, managing an investment fund, scientific research, teaching, or entrepreneurship. Personally, I’m involved in advanced materials and nanotechnology consulting, but my true passion has been building community institutions since I arrived in 1973. I’ve established seven such institutions in the last 50 years, including the Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) New York I initiated in 1976.”

GOPIO, it is a secular community organization for Indian expatriates (NRIs) and people of Indian origin (PIO), with a non-religious and non-political nature, encompassing over 100 chapters in 35 countries. The newest chapter is located in Manhattan and actively engages in community service. Students are welcome to volunteer their time for activities such as community feeding programs, which are conducted on the last Monday of every month. If an interest in volunteering arises, the vice president Dr. Vimal Goyle can be reached out to. The primary goal of this event was to establish connections between students and the Indian American community, offering opportunities for interaction with consulate officials, speakers, presenters, and mentors in attendance.

GOPIO Manhattan Board Member Raj Panjabi introduced the moderator and panelists. Dr. Nilanjan Sen, Ph.D., CFA, a Professor of Finance) in the School of Business at the University of Albany, State University of New York was the moderator. He brought a wealth of experience from his role as the former Dean of the School of Business at the University of Albany, effectively bridging the corporate and academic realms. The panel also featured Dr. Mohini Mukherjee, the Executive Director of International Student Services at Rutgers, who offered insights into the academic perspective. Additionally, Mr. Debasis Sahu, Partner Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC), shared his corporate expertise, drawing from his over 25 years of experience in the United States. He shed light on what companies seek when hiring graduates.

Ms. Prashanthi Reddy Esq. provided valuable guidance on immigration-related matters, guiding students on transitioning from F1 to CPT/OPT and ultimately to the coveted H1B status. Last but
not least, Ms. Suruchi Saini, Founder Holistic Bonfire LLC, a Board certified licensed professional counselor and tele mental health provider, addressed the challenges of managing stress and anxiety, particularly in the academic context.

The Discussion started with Immigration Attorney Prashanthi Reddy, with her legal insights. She emphasized on the importance of understanding and following the guidelines to avoid legal issues and maintain a successful academic and professional journey in the United States. She mentioned, “Here are some key points to remember for international students in the United States. Your visa duration depends on your course length, so ensure you maintain full-time enrollment and stay informed about changing regulations, especially for online classes. Avoid fraudulent universities and use Curricular Practical Training (CPT) judiciously, following your school's guidelines. Steer clear of illegal activities, including using fake IDs, and never work without proper authorization. In case of legal issues, consult an immigration attorney. Stay updated on immigration policies and comply with specific regulations for foreign students when taking online courses.”

Dr. Mohini Mukherjee shared, “Connect with your campus’s International Student Services office, attend their programs, and follow them on social media for support. Use the many resources available on your campus, from career services to academic writing support, to enhance your experience. Remember to maintain your legal status by staying informed about updates and reporting changes. Be open to the opportunities around you.”

Ms. Suruchi Saini advocated a holistic approach to life, combining the science of yoga, psychology, and neuroscience. She emphasized the importance of staying connected with one’s
mind and taking care of the brain, considering it one’s most valuable asset. This holistic approach includes understanding the impact of food on brain function and the connection between physical and mental well-being. She added, “Daily self-reflection, meditation, or even just a few minutes of quiet time to sharpen one’s focus and maintain a strong connection between the mind and body.” She suggested, “Such practices not only promote relaxation but also help individuals envision their future, set long-term and short-term goals, and track their progress. Additionally, she advised maintaining emotional intelligence and logical thinking separately, using the logical brain in professional contexts and understanding that constructive feedback is about improving tasks, not personal rejection.

Mr. Debasis Sahu imparted wisdom to students, emphasizing the unique educational journey he embarked on, in New York. He stressed on the significance of perpetual learning and self- improvement since knowledge is readily available, making adaptability a competitive advantage. He said, “Overcoming self-doubt and taking charge of one’s career by practicing self-reflection is encouraged. It’s suggested that students find their purpose and passion, as this naturally draws knowledge and information. The importance of collaborating with others and honing effective communication skills is also highlighted. In essence, students are advised to seize their opportunities, focus on continuous learning and growth, and nurture vital skills like collaboration and clear communication for a prosperous career.”

One of the very intriguing questions thrown to them in the panel was about how to tackle the challenges students come across in their journey in a new country. To which Dr. Mohini Mukherjee said, “The importance of preparation as a key element for success, especially in the context of interviews and planning for various aspects of life as international students.” Furthermore, she emphasized the fact that interviews are an opportunity for mutual assessment, with students learning about the company while the company assesses the students. Overall, she underscored the value of preparation in navigating challenges and making the best impression in various situations.

Sahu added to this, “I’ve received and personally adopted some valuable advice that continues to guide me. One piece of advice is to embrace discomfort because growth often arises from
challenging and uncomfortable situations. Another is to recognize that life is a journey, so it's essential to pace yourself and prioritize your well-being. Stress and anxiety are part of life, but
managing them through activities like exercise, talking to someone, and maintaining your fitness is crucial for your career and avoiding burnout. These principles have proven helpful for me.”
Reddy said, “In my journey, I discovered the importance of venturing beyond my comfort zone. While I initially pursued a career in law and thought of myself as solely a lawyer focused on
legal briefs and client communication, I eventually embarked on the path of running my own business. Transitioning into this role required me to step into the realm of marketing, which was
far from my comfort zone as I wasn’t inclined to self-promotion. However, as I took the leap, I found that I not only enjoyed it but also learned the value of embracing self-marketing. I realized that it’s more fulfilling for people to recognize me for who I am as a person rather than merely for my professional role.”

Dr. Sahani followed by saying, “My advice to you all is to dive wholeheartedly into your vision, explore and gather resources, and maintain a balance between your personal and professional
growth. Challenges will arise, but with self-awareness and the ability to focus, you can overcome them. Keep emotions in check, stay logical and focused, and you’ll not only overcome challenges but also be in a position to uplift those around you. Wishing you all the best!”

This panel discussion served as a valuable resource for international students, providing them with guidance, motivation, and strategies to navigate their unique educational journey in a new
country. It reinforces the idea that preparation, self-reflection, embracing discomfort, and venturing outside one's comfort zone are key elements in achieving success and personal growth.
The vote of thanks was given by Ms. Bhavya Gupta on behalf of Mr. Shivender Sofat, President GOPIO-Manhattan, highlighting the importance of the takeaways from the accomplished panel.
There were many other volunteers from GOPIO-Manhattan including Co-Secretary Dr. Lisa George and Venkat Boyalla and student volunteers from NYU Tandon School of Engineering Priya Kundu Sneha Kripa Tirchy Shekar. In the end, the shared wisdom and experiences of these esteemed panelists underscore the message that international students can achieve not only their
academic and professional goals but also their personal growth and fulfillment. With the right mindset and preparation, they can embrace their unique journey, overcome challenges, and
ultimately thrive in a new country.

See the video of the program streamed through Facebook live at
https://fb.watch/nFwfjgTgv3/?mibextid=KQpadY
This report was prepared NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering student Priya Kundu. For more
info on GOPIO Manhattan, call President Shivender Sofat at 731-988-6969, e-mail:
[email protected] or visit here: https://gopiomanhattan.org/

Exploring the Unknown: The Power of Imagination in Science

Learning something new, something beyond our current knowledge, takes various forms. Experience often serves as a crucial teacher, compelling the young to venture forth into uncharted territory. Another path to enlightenment lies in the wisdom shared by those who have embarked on journeys of discovery before us.

Their insights manifest as stories, lessons in school, Wikipedia entries, or books, expanding our horizons. Take, for instance, the case of Aristotle and Theophrastus, who, during their sojourn to the island of Lesbos, meticulously observed the intricate movements of fish, mollusks, birds, mammals, and plants. Their records unveiled the wondrous realm of biology, illuminating the natural world for all to see.

Instruments, on the other hand, offer us an opportunity to peer even further into the mysteries of the universe. Galileo, for instance, turned his telescope toward the heavens and bore witness to phenomena that would have defied belief. This act opened our eyes to the boundless expanse of astronomy. Similarly, physicists utilize spectrometers to dissect the light emitted by elements, amassing data about atoms and ushering us into the world of quantum physics.

Yet, what about the aspects of our universe that remain invisible, even to the most advanced technology? How do we learn about phenomena we can never observe directly, regardless of our technological prowess? This is a question that continually gnaws at my own exploration of black holes.

Black holes, today, dot the celestial landscape, visible thanks to the remarkable capabilities of telescopes. However, the view we have is limited to their exteriors. We witness matter swirling madly around the abyss before succumbing to its relentless pull. But what lies within? What secrets would we uncover if we dared to plunge into a black hole and withstand the crushing forces that assail us?

This is a conundrum that current science cannot answer. While Einstein’s theory offers insights into the behavior of black holes, it predicts the termination of time within their dark depths. Nevertheless, the inner sanctum of black holes is governed by the quantum aspects of space and time, aspects that Einstein’s theory does not encompass.

So, how do we fathom a place we can neither physically reach nor directly observe? To explore the unexplorable, we must rely on a tool beyond technology, logic, or mathematics. We must invoke the power of imagination.

Picture: CBC

Throughout history, numerous scientific breakthroughs have hinged on the subtle art of changing one’s perspective. Consider Anaximander, the ancient Greek thinker who revolutionized cosmology. He ventured to imagine the Earth not merely as the sky above but also as the expanse beneath our feet, presenting a revolutionary shift in perspective. This imaginative leap allowed him to envision how the Earth might appear from a vantage point in the heavens, a vision later realized by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as they gazed upon our planet from the moon’s surface.

Anaximander also stands as the originator of geographical mapping. In ancient times, the concept of rendering land from an eagle’s perspective, as seen from great heights, had not occurred to anyone. It took the audacity to place oneself in the eagle’s position, to contemplate the world from such an elevated viewpoint, to introduce this entirely new perspective.

Hipparchus, one of the most illustrious astronomers of antiquity, offered a refined calculation of the moon’s distance. He began with the question, “What would I see if I stood at the tip of Earth’s shadow cone?” By envisioning himself thousands of miles from Earth, in the expanse of interplanetary space, witnessing the Earth completely eclipsing the sun, Hipparchus engaged in a form of mental sightseeing.

Copernicus, the trailblazing astronomer, examined the solar system from the perspective of the sun itself. Johannes Kepler, in his work “The Dream,” recounted a voyage to the moon, providing an account of the celestial vista from its surface. Einstein, in his profound contemplation, pondered what he might observe if he could ride a beam of light.

These visionaries were able to see from places they had never physically visited. Anaximander didn’t soar with eagles, Kepler didn’t ride a broomstick to the moon, and Einstein certainly didn’t surf a ray of light. So, how is this possible? The answer, I believe, lies in striking a delicate balance—a balance between what we carry with us from our accumulated knowledge and what we’re willing to leave behind. What we retain equips us with a sense of expectation.

In the context of exploring black holes, Einstein’s equations, predicting their geometric properties, guide us. Einstein, in turn, built upon James Clerk Maxwell’s equations, describing light’s behavior. Kepler drew from Copernicus’s magnum opus, “On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres.” These established the maps, the rules, the principles that have consistently served us well. However, it’s imperative that we shed some of our preconceptions.

Anaximander discarded the notion that all things fall in the same direction, recognizing that falling must involve subtleties not previously considered. Kepler relinquished the idea of celestial bodies moving in perfect circles, a concept that seemed intuitively correct. Einstein parted with the belief that all clocks tick uniformly, a notion still held by many. Striking this balance is essential; too much baggage hampers progress, while too little leaves us ill-equipped to forge new pathways. There is no recipe for success; there is only trial and error, a continuous cycle of experimentation.

This approach is emblematic of scientific inquiry, a journey marked by unceasing study and profound love. It involves the endless reconfiguration of our existing knowledge to gain new insights. It requires us to leave behind elements that once seemed fundamental but have become obstacles to progress. It necessitates calculated risks and a lingering presence on the fringes of our knowledge. This ongoing familiarity enables us to traverse the border, to walk back and forth along its length, searching for that elusive gap. It beckons us to experiment with new combinations, to embrace new concepts.

This method is not dissimilar to the creative process in art. Both science and art revolve around the perpetual reorganization of our conceptual space, reshaping our understanding of meaning. When we react to a work of art, the process occurs not within the art itself but within the intricate network of analogical relationships woven by our neurons. Art and science awaken us from our habitual slumber, reconnecting us with the joy of seeing the world anew.

This joy mirrors the profound satisfaction that science imparts. The radiance in a Johannes Vermeer painting reveals a resonance of light in the world previously eluding our grasp. A fragment of Sappho’s poetry engenders a fresh perspective on desire. Anish Kapoor’s voids of pure black bewilder us, much like the enigmatic black holes in general relativity. Both prompt us to contemplate alternate ways of understanding the intangible fabric of reality.

The path from observation to comprehension is often long and meandering. Copernicus and Einstein, for instance, drew from well-established observations that had been known for centuries. It is the ability to reconfigure our thought processes that enables us to take that transformative leap.

In the pursuit of understanding the enigmatic depths of black holes, I have devoted my career and life to this quest. As Albert Einstein eloquently expressed, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious

Renowned Statistician Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao, a Pioneer of Modern Data Analysis, Passes Away at 102

Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao, a distinguished figure in the world of statistics who played a pivotal role in shaping modern scientific data analysis, has passed away at the age of 102. Rao’s groundbreaking work, including his development of ‘information geometry’ and data-reduction techniques, has had a profound impact on a wide range of fields, from agricultural sciences and biomedical research to econometrics, industrial engineering, social sciences, and signal processing. His contributions were so influential that they were even instrumental in uncovering the Higgs boson, a significant discovery at CERN, the European particle-physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland.

Rao’s remarkable journey began in Hadagalli, India, where he was born. His father, a police inspector, frequently moved due to job postings until the family eventually settled in Visakhapatnam, India. Recognizing Rao’s exceptional mathematical talents, both of his parents encouraged him to pursue bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics at Andhra University in Visakhapatnam.

Picture: IE

In 1941, Rao joined the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) in Kolkata, which was founded and led by the eminent statistician P. C. Mahalanobis. At the time, the field of statistical inference was still in its formative stages. Rao embarked on a master’s course in statistics at the University of Calcutta in the same year, where he laid the groundwork for many of the data analysis tools in use today. His early work, including his master’s thesis in 1943, introduced the ‘perimeter’ test for comparing multiple experimental groups, which subsequently gave rise to the multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) procedure. Rao’s innovative contributions continued with the derivation of the Cramér–Rao inequality in 1943, providing a lower bound for estimating unknown parameters within a statistical population, a concept essential for fields such as medical research.

In addition to his exceptional mathematical contributions, Rao also made a notable foray into archaeology and ethnology in 1946 when he worked at the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at the University of Cambridge, UK. There, he analyzed measurements of ancient skulls unearthed from graves in Sudan, enabling the categorization of these remains by tribe and age. During this time, he also began his PhD studies under the guidance of the renowned statistician Ronald Fisher, one of the founding fathers of modern statistics. Rao’s work extended to mapping mouse chromosomes for genetic linkage studies, leading to statistical methodologies that are foundational in modern data analysis.

Rao’s work was not confined to academia. His statistical techniques found applications in the design of experiments and devices, including computer chips. By selecting key parameters for robust product design while minimizing costs, time, and labor, Rao’s contributions led to the development of ‘orthogonal arrays,’ which subsequently played a crucial role in Japan’s industrial quality revolution in the 1970s under the guidance of Japanese engineer Genichi Taguchi.

Returning to the ISI in 1948, Rao was appointed as a professor the following year, marking a remarkable achievement as he was not yet 29 years old. Although he had also applied for a lectureship at Cambridge, he was denied the position with the reason that “foreigners” were not typically appointed to teach English students. Nonetheless, Rao’s leadership at the ISI helped it become one of the world’s foremost statistical institutes. He served as the head of research and training and later as the director.

After his mandatory retirement in 1978, Rao moved to the United States. There, he made a significant impact on statistics programs at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he co-established the Center for Multivariate Analysis. His influence extended to Pennsylvania State University in State College in 1988 and, in 2010, to the University at Buffalo, New York. In 2007, the C. R. Rao Advanced Institute of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science was established in Hyderabad, India, in his honor.

Among Rao’s extensive body of work, two of his books, “Advanced Statistical Methods in Biometric Research” (1952) and “Linear Statistical Inference and its Applications” (1965), stand as iconic texts. These books have played a pivotal role in training generations of statisticians around the world. Notably, just a few months before his passing, Rao received the International Prize in Statistics, becoming the fourth recipient of this prestigious award, which was established in 2017 to advance the understanding of the role of statistics in contemporary life.

Beyond his impressive contributions to the world of statistics, Rao had a passion for south Indian classical dances, photography, and gardening. He was celebrated as an exceptional teacher who instilled in his students the ability to think independently. Rao was known for his humility, soft-spoken nature, and gentle demeanor, leaving an indelible mark on the field of statistics. His loss will be deeply felt, but his legacy will endure as a source of inspiration and innovation.

After 3 Years, Student Loan Payments Are Back

After a pause of more than three years due to the economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic, student loan payments officially resume this Sunday. The Biden administration has made the decision to reactivate all student loan accounts, affecting over 28 million borrowers. Despite ongoing resistance from advocates and concerns about a potential government shutdown, this move has been met with mixed reactions.

Natalia Abrams, President and Founder of the Student Debt Crisis Center, expressed her dismay, saying, “It’s a sad day for student loan borrowers and for the country that student loans have to come back on, especially with the threat of a looming government shutdown, potentially on the same day. It’s just wild.”

A survey conducted by Life and My Finances in July revealed that half of borrowers claimed they did not earn enough to afford their student loan payments, and at the time, only 22 percent had a plan in place for repayment. Some borrowers have resorted to a “student debt strike,” refusing to make payments as a form of protest against the system.

President Biden, who had made relief for student loan borrowers a central promise of his 2020 campaign, has introduced an “on-ramp” repayment plan. Under this plan, borrowers can miss their monthly payments for the next year with fewer consequences than before. The Department of Education will not label borrowers as delinquent, garnish their wages, or send them to debt collectors if they miss payments. However, interest will continue to accrue on their loans, potentially affecting their credit scores, even though missed payments will not be reported to credit card companies.

Jacob Channel, Senior Economist and Student Loan Repayment Expert at Lending Tree, explained, “There could be situations where potentially because you’re not making your payments, the value of your loan is increasing because it’s collecting interest, so you will owe more money. The credit bureau takes that into account, and maybe your credit score gets dinged a little bit.”

Before the pandemic-induced pause, it was already evident that student loans were causing financial strain for millions of Americans, influencing significant life decisions. Nearly half of student loan borrowers in 2019 postponed homeownership due to their educational debt, according to real estate platform Clever.

Natalia Abrams highlighted the broader impact, stating, “In typical pre-COVID times, when people are paying their student loans, they’re not buying their children’s medication, they’re not able to save for a house or retirement. We know from polling borrowers for so many years that they were using their COVID pandemic money to pay for basic needs, and so the worry is that now they won’t be able to.”

The Biden administration has taken measures to alleviate the burden on borrowers before the repayment restart. This includes forgiving $117 billion in student loans for more than 3.4 million borrowers, primarily stemming from the borrower defense program, which forgives the debt of individuals defrauded by their schools.

President Biden had initially attempted to forgive at least $10,000 in student loans for all 45 million borrowers, but the Supreme Court rejected this plan in June. Nonetheless, the administration introduced a new income-driven repayment (IDR) program known as the Saving on Valuable Education (SAVE) plan, implemented in two phases.

The first phase, set to commence this year, increases the income exemption from 150 percent to 225 percent above the federal poverty guidelines. This means that an individual borrower earning up to $32,800 annually would have monthly payments of $0 on their student loans. A family of four with an income below $67,500 would also have monthly payments of $0.

Another significant change this year is the cessation of interest growth on unpaid balances for borrowers. In the following year, additional changes will be introduced, including halving monthly payments from 10 percent of discretionary income to 5 percent.

Natalia Abrams noted the significance of the SAVE plan for certain borrowers, saying, “The SAVE plan is a lifeline if you’re able to get on a $0 payment, and we have worked with some borrowers, especially older borrowers on Social Security, to get on that plan.” However, she also pointed out that the plan may not be beneficial for those whose income increased during the pandemic, as they could face higher payment requirements if they were previously on a different IDR plan.

As the resumption of student loan payments looms, a divide among politicians and policymakers has taken center stage. With 45 million borrowers, only 28 million are set to restart repayments in October, while others remain in various states of account suspension, including those still in school, in default, or awaiting debt discharge.

Republicans have welcomed the impending repayment restart, contending that delays and Biden administration promises have left borrowers in an unfavorable position. Adam Kissel, a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy, emphasized the need to address the root issue, stating, “This conversation distracts us from the core problem, which is making student loan money too easy, which causes tuition to rise and does not address what’s needed, which is that colleges need tough love to end their addiction to tuition.”

The Republican perspective has long centered on the argument that federal student debt relief is inequitable to those who never attended college or managed to pay off their student loans independently. They have put forward their proposals aimed at increasing transparency in the cost of college education.

“Republicans have brought forth a solution that holds colleges accountable for rising costs and empowers students and families to make the best decisions for their college careers and beyond. But if Congress fails to act, students will continue to drown in debt without a path to success,” emphasized Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

The revival of student loan payments also coincides with Congress’s ongoing struggles to keep the government operational. Even before the shutdown debate emerged, it was clear that student loan servicers were grappling with customer service challenges due to insufficient funding, potentially affecting wait times for borrowers seeking assistance.

Picture: ABC

However, according to the White House, a government shutdown, particularly if prolonged, could exacerbate the situation. Karine Jean-Pierre, Biden’s press secretary, noted, “So, you know, if this happens, if Republicans in Congress, you know, go down this road of shutting down the government, we anticipate that key activities at Federal Student Aid will continue for a couple of weeks.” She added that “an extreme Republican shutdown, if this occurs, could be disruptive.”

The resumption of repayments also arrives just a year before the 2024 presidential election, a politically sensitive time to displease student loan advocates. Progressive Democrats are expected to exert more pressure on President Biden to provide greater student debt relief than he has been willing to consider thus far.

Even prior to a Supreme Court ruling, prominent Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) had been advocating for $50,000 in student loan relief for all borrowers. Warren, in particular, had asserted, “It’s the right number, it’s where a lot of people intersect that we could transform an entire generation.”

In response, the Department of Education is actively pursuing an alternative path to provide some relief. They intend to utilize the negotiated rulemaking process under the Higher Education Act. While the department has unveiled its initial policy considerations for the new plan, these seem to be considerably more targeted than the broad relief previously promised.

The administration aims to offer targeted relief for specific groups of borrowers. However, these considerations are not set in stone, and the first meeting regarding the future proposal is scheduled for October 10th and 11th. Finalizing any plan is expected to extend well into 2024, with potential legal challenges likely to further delay any relief.

The imminent resumption of student loan repayments has reignited political debates, with Republicans emphasizing accountability in higher education costs and Democrats, particularly progressives, pushing for more extensive debt relief. Amidst these political divisions, the Department of Education is exploring alternative avenues for targeted relief, but any significant changes are still on the horizon and subject to potential legal battles.

The 2024 Best World Universities With Oxford At The Top

The Times Higher Education (THE) has unveiled its 20th edition of the World’s Best Universities rankings. Notably, the prestigious University of Oxford from the United Kingdom has secured the top spot for an astonishing eighth consecutive year. Stanford University, representing the United States, has clinched the second position, asserting itself as the highest-ranked American institution. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) proudly occupies the third place.

In this extensive 2024 edition of the World University Rankings, a staggering 1,904 universities hailing from 108 different countries and regions have been meticulously evaluated. The assessment takes into account a comprehensive array of 18 performance indicators that scrutinize research-intensive universities, assessing their prowess across crucial domains such as teaching, research, knowledge transfer, and internationalization.

The top 10 positions in this list continue to be heavily dominated by American institutions. The rankings in order are as follows: University of Oxford, Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, University of Cambridge (UK), Princeton University, California Institute of Technology, Imperial College London, University of California, Berkeley, and Yale University.

The United States stands prominently in the top 20, boasting 13 institutions, and in the top 200, where a staggering 56 American universities have secured their places. In fact, the U.S. remarkably claims the highest representation with a total of 169 universities featured in the rankings, surpassing all other nations. In a noteworthy shift, Asia has emerged as the most prominently represented continent, overtaking Europe since the 2021 rankings. Notably, Africa and South America have also shown significant presence, with each region contributing more than 100 universities to the rankings.

Picture: NDTV

The United Kingdom has demonstrated its academic prowess as well, with three universities securing positions in the top 10. In addition to Oxford’s top-ranking position, the University of Cambridge stands at fifth place, while Imperial College London claims the eighth spot. As a collective, the UK is home to a total of 104 ranked universities, making it the third-highest represented country. Impressively, 11 British universities find their place within the top 100, and 25 are listed in the top 200.

However, while the United States and the United Kingdom continue to lead the pack in the global rankings, THE reports that their positions are facing challenges, with diminishing numbers of universities in the top 200. Since 2021, both countries have seen a decline of four and three institutions, respectively, in this segment.

In Europe, Switzerland’s ETH Zurich emerges as the highest-ranked institution outside the UK, securing the 11th position. Germany also makes a strong showing with 49 ranked universities, and the Technical University of Munich shares the 30th position. Germany boasts eight universities within the top 100 and an impressive 21 in the top 200. Spain’s top-ranking institution is the University of Barcelona, which has made significant progress by moving up 30 places to secure a joint 152nd position.

This year, the rankings welcome four new European entrants: Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, and Armenia. Turkey’s highest-ranked universities include Koç University, Middle East Technical University, and Sabancı University, all falling within the band ranging from 351 to 400. Europe, as a whole, is the second-most represented continent, following Asia, with a total of 664 ranked universities.

China’s ascent in global academia is unmistakable. The country has two universities positioned in the top 20, seven in the top 100, and an impressive 13 in the top 200. This stands in stark contrast to the 2018 edition of the rankings, where China only had two universities in the top 100. The number of Chinese institutions securing positions in the top 400 has doubled since 2021, rising from 15 to 30. Tsinghua University is the standout performer among Chinese institutions, securing the 12th position. China’s overall representation includes 86 ranked universities, positioning it as the fifth-highest represented country globally.

Asia reigns supreme as the most represented continent, boasting an impressive total of 737 universities featured in the rankings. Singapore’s National University secures the 19th position, while Nanyang Technological University (NTU) follows closely at 32nd place. Japan takes second place in terms of the number of ranked universities, with a total of 119. The University of Tokyo remains Japan’s highest-ranked institution, holding the 29th position.

India has achieved a significant milestone, with a record-breaking 91 universities featured in the rankings. The Indian Institute of Science represents the country’s highest-ranking institution, positioned in the 201–250 band. Neighboring Pakistan also enjoys a notable presence with 39 ranked universities, with Quaid-i-Azam University leading the way in the 401–500 band.

In the Middle East and North Africa, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel have made their mark with universities securing positions within the top 250. Egypt’s Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology (E-JUST) has significantly improved its ranking, moving up 30 places from 182 to the joint 152nd position.

The African continent has witnessed remarkable growth, with a 16% year-on-year increase in participation. The rankings now feature 113 institutions from Africa, marking the largest increase among all continents. The University of Cape Town stands tall as the highest-ranking African university, securing the 167th position.

The Latin America and Caribbean region have witnessed a record-breaking presence, with 144 universities from 12 countries securing positions in the rankings. Brazil’s University of São Paulo continues to lead the region, falling within the 201–250 band. The top three in the region is completed by Brazil’s University of Campinas (351–400) and Chile’s Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (401–500). Both Colombia and Chile have seen a substantial number of new entrants, with six newly-ranked universities in Colombia, five in Chile, and two in Brazil. Among the new entrants, Colombia’s University of la Costa stands out, securing a position in the 801–1,000 band.

Mexico’s two highest-ranked universities, Monterrey Institute of Technology and National Autonomous University of Mexico, have both moved up a band, securing positions in the 601–800 and 801–1,000 bands, respectively.

In a noteworthy development, this year’s rankings introduce 165 universities that are ranked for the first time. Of these, 89 hail from Asia, 38 from Europe, 19 from Africa, 14 from South America, and five from North America. At the country level, India leads with 20 newly-ranked universities, followed by Turkey with 14, Pakistan with 11, and Algeria and Iran with nine each. Among these newly-ranked institutions, Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST) in South Korea emerges as the top performer, securing a position in the 351–400 band.

THE’s World University Rankings have evolved significantly over time, starting with 200 universities and now encompassing an impressive 2,000 institutions. This extensive coverage makes it the most comprehensive and globally inclusive ranking system.

For those interested in the updated methodology for the 20th edition of the World University Rankings, the details are available for review.

These are the top 12 institutions in the ranking:

1- University of Oxford, U.K.

2- Stanford University, U.S.

3- Massachusetts Institute of Technolog, U.S.

4- Harvard University, U.S.

5- University of Cambridge, U.K.

6- Princeton University, U.S.

7- California Institute of Technolog, U.S.

8- Imperial College London, U.K.

9- University of California, Berkeley, U.S.

10- Yale University, U.S.

11- ETH Zurich, Switzerland

12- Tsinghua Universit, China

Indian Students Receive Record Number of US Visas for Third Consecutive Year

Indian students have once again set a record by obtaining over 90,000 US student visas during the summer months of June, July, and August, marking the third consecutive year of record-breaking numbers. The US Embassy in India revealed that nearly one in four student visas issued globally this summer was granted to Indian students. These figures underscore India’s position as the second-largest source of international students for the United States, following China. The strained relations between India and Canada are expected to further boost the influx of Indian students to countries like the US, UK, and Australia

Picture: US Embassy

Indians Account for Over 10% of Global Visa Applicants

Indians have emerged as a dominant force in the realm of US visa applications, constituting more than 10% of all visa applicants worldwide. This surge in interest reflects the enduring allure of the United States for Indian travelers.

20% of All Student Visa Applicants

Notably, Indian students have displayed a remarkable affinity for American education, with 20% of all student visa applicants hailing from India. This statistic underscores the reputation of US universities as a preferred destination for higher education among Indian scholars.

65% of H&L-Category (Employment) Visa Applicants

In the professional arena, Indians are making a significant mark, constituting a whopping 65% of all H&L-category (employment) visa applicants. This reflects the strong economic ties and opportunities that the United States offers to Indian professionals.

Surpassing Pre-Covid Levels

The US Mission in India has not only met but exceeded its pre-pandemic benchmarks, with visa application numbers soaring by 20% compared to 2019. This resurgence in interest signifies the gradual return of normalcy in international travel post-Covid.

Personal Touch from US Ambassador

US Ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti, personally presented the one millionth visa to a delighted couple. Their journey to the United States to attend their son’s graduation at MIT symbolizes the dreams and aspirations that many Indian families have of American education and opportunities.

Looking Ahead to 2024

As the year progresses, the mission continues to process visa applications at an accelerated rate, indicating sustained enthusiasm among Indians for visiting the United States. This bodes well for fostering cultural exchange, educational pursuits, and economic partnerships between the two nations.

A Lasting Impression

Ambassador Garcetti, affectionately referring to the couple as “Mr. and Mrs. One Million,” engaged with them, sharing insights and recommendations for their upcoming trip. This personal touch exemplifies the warmth and hospitality extended by the US Embassy to Indian visa applicants.

Previous Year’s Success

Last year, over 1.2 million Indians visited the United States, reaffirming the enduring bond between the two nations and the ever-growing interest of Indians in exploring the vast opportunities that the United States has to offer.

Shantiniketan Added To UNESCO World Heritage List

There was an air of celebration and jubilation around Visva Bharati University in the Birbhum district of West Bengal after Shantiniketan, where Rabindranath Tagore spent a significant part of his life, was included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The iconic university building and compound were lit up with decorative lights and the faculty, staff and hostelers, dressed in traditional attire, were seen breaking into Rabindrasangeet (Tagore songs) as word of the prestigious UNESCO tag reached them.

Picture : IE

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, expressed her delight on X (formerly Twitter), “Glad and proud that our Santiniketan, the town of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, is now finally included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Biswa Bangla’s pride, Santiniketan was nurtured by the poet and has been supported by (the) people of Bengal over the generations.”

She added that her government had “significantly added” to the infrastructure” at Santiniketan over its last 12 years in power.

“We from the Government of West Bengal have significantly added to its infrastructure in last 12 years and the world now recognizes the glory of the heritage place. Kudos to all who love Bengal, Tagore, and his messages of fraternity. Jai Bangla, Pranam to Gurudev,” Mamata added in her tweet.

UNESCO India posted on X earlier, officially confirming that it had bestowed the World Heritage tag on Tagore’s abode. “#Santiniketan, West Bengal now inscribed on the #WorldHeritage List!! Established in rural West Bengal in 1901, Santiniketan was founded by Rabindranath Tagore, a renowned poet and philosopher. It is now India’s 41st #WorldHeritageSite,”

Also rejoicing the heritage tag for Shantiniketan, West Bengal Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Shashi Panja said, “Today is a proud moment for Bengal. It’s a proud moment for India.”

Shantiniketan is an ensemble of historic buildings, landscapes and gardens, pavilions, artworks, and continuing educational and cultural traditions that together express its Outstanding Universal Value, UNESCO said in a release.

India Shows the Way in Expanding an Inclusive Medical Education

Ever since the first medical college was established in 1835 in Kolkata in India, the scope and breadth of health education in India has widened, especially in the past decade. From just 19 medical colleges and nearly 1,000 students in 1947, the number of medical schools in India has grown tremendously, having one of the largest number of medical colleges in the world.

Incorporating principles of diversity, inclusiveness, and expansion by adding new medical schools every year with specialized areas of Medicine, India’s model of medical education has now come to be a model for the rest of the world to emulate.

According to Dr. Lokesh Edara, who has been leading the efforts for AAPI’s Global Medical Education Initiatives and currently serving as the Chair of Board of Trustees of The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), ever since gaining Independence from the colonial British rule, India has expanded its medical education program with 19 medical schools to now having 706 medical colleges in 77 years.

Picture : Fast Voice Media

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has taken medical education to newer heights. India created in a span of nine years, 317 new medical schools. Dr. Edara says, in 2014, there were 387 medical colleges having a total of 51,348 MBBs seats in the country. In 2023, the number of medical schools has expanded to 706 colleges with a total of 108,898 medical seats across the nation.

When it comes to the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), India had seven AIIMS in 2014. Today, the number of AIIMS has increased to 22. “The Indian model of AIIMS funded by the federal government should be a model to the rest of the world,” Dr. Edara said.

Another area, where the Indian model is significant for the rest of the world to emulate is its inclusiveness and encouraging of minority communities in the nation. India is the only country that has its constitution facilitating the establishment of minority institutions. India is home to the people of several minority religions, resulting in 2 medical schools for the Sikhs, 2 Christian medical schools, 2 Jain medical institutes, one Buddhist medical school and as many as 26 Muslim institutions, in addition to 6 Linguistic minority medical colleges.

Indian laws also provide reservation to students from minority and backward communities, with more than 50% of medical schools’ seats reserved for admission. “This is one of the best examples of diversity and inclusiveness in education in the world,” Dr. Edara said.

The presence of growing number of specialty education in Medicine, catering to the diverse, rural, urban and complex needs of the patients in each medical school is where India again leads the world. The MCI/NMC in India has mandated that there be departments catering to the specialty areas, catering to the special needs of each patient.

AAPI has been spearheading medical education advocacy programs for India, Dr. Edara pointed out. “The uniqueness of medical education in India is that Indian medical colleges have been mandated and they have as many as 23 specialized departments of medicine. NMC, NBEMS are also models in India for the rest of world for generating specialties of physicians.

Picture : TheUNN

Advancing medical education from High School onwards, many states in India have mandatory anatomy, physiology and biochemistry deportments, making them as essential subjects for students admitted from 12th Grade onwards. And for para medical departments, there are similar programs along with medicine, surgery, OBGYN and pediatrics.

Today, India boasts of more medical graduates with specialties in comparison with the rest of the world due to the establishment of clinically mandatory departments in medical colleges. For instance, in ophthalmology, India has 1927 seats vs the United States having 509 seats, which is 374% higher than that of the US. In the field of MS ENT/Otolaryngology, India has 1417 seats, while the US has 373 seats, an increase of 380% in India.

Seats for Orthopedics in India is 2847, while the US has 899 seats, with 222% greater number of seats in India. In Anesthesiology, India has 429 colleges with 4687 seats, while the US has 1746 seats, which is 268% more seats in India. There are as many as 2544 seats in India vs US having 1274 seats for post graduate studies in Hematology, which is 266% higher in India than USA.

With 1408 seats in India as against 528 seats in the US for Radio Diagnosis, which is 200% higher in India than in the US. Radiation Therapy/Oncology seats are 239% higher in India than the US with 457 seats in India vs 191 admissions in the US. There are as many as 1360 Psychiatry seats in India to the 2164 seats in the United States annually. In the field of Pulmonary/TB & Respiratory, the US has 1172 seats while India has 1045 MD seats today.

India is planning to create one Post Graduate seat to each MBBS graduate passing out from medical schools. AAPI has been advocating for post graduate seats in family medicine with at least 20 % of all Post graduate seats as India has 25 million newborn babies every year, urging the Government of India to increase neonatologists, Dr. Edara pointed out.

NBEMS has created more postgraduation and super specialty physician programs at private and government run hospitals helping the capacity building across India. This model of medical colleges is unique to India not only for producing more specialists, but they are also delivering much needed specialty services across India both at medical colleges and in private practice.

AAPI has been advocating for formative assessment of postgraduates and changing to high quality computer based high order assessment for MBBS and postgraduates. “I request eLearning platform to MBBS, postgraduate, super specialty, nursing and para medical education for higher transfer of knowledge and the help protect public health,” Dr. Edara said.

India is aliso a model in expanding medical colleges and health delivery. India is concentrating on its challenges to address National Eligibility Test (NEXT) similar to USMLE of USA and UKMLE of UK. AAPI has successfully advocated that NMC made emergency medicine department mandatory in all medical schools with post graduate programs.

In addition, AAPI has been advocating for the implementation of multiple-choice theory assessment option for Post Graduate Final Theory Examinations by NMC has bridged the assessment gap for Indian students aspiring to compete with students from the rest of the world. This approach also helps high level of transfer of knowledge.

According to a JAMA published article in August 2020, the projected estimates of African medical graduates in closed Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU)medical schools were established between 1868 and 1904 surrounding the 1910 Flexner report, consequences associated with the closure of historically Black medical schools.

If the 5 closed historically Black medical schools had remained open, the steady expansion and rapid expansion models indicated that these schools might have collectively provided training to an additional 27, 773 graduates and 35,315 graduates, respectively, between their year of closure and 2019.

Quoting from a study by researchers from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the AAMC that was published in JAMA Network Open that linked a higher prevalence of Black doctors to longer life expectancy and lower mortality in Black population, Michael Dill, the director of workforce studies at the Association of American Medical Colleges and one of the study’s co-authors said, “This is adding to the case for a more diverse physician workforce. What else could you ask for?”

It is enocuraging to note that the United States and  AAMC have been addressing  disparity un the recent past. As a result, the number of Black or African American matriculants increased by 9%. Black or African American students made up 10% of matriculants in 2022-23, up from 9.5% in 2020-21. First-year Black or African American men increased by 5%.

Matriculants who are Hispanic, Latino, or of Spanish origin increased by 4%. Individuals from this group made up 12% of total matriculants. American Indian or Alaska Native matriculants declined by 9%, comprising 1% of matriculants.

“The increases in first-year enrollees from historically underrepresented groups reflect the efforts of the nation’s medical schools to increase diversity and further address the nation’s public health needs,” said Geoffrey Young, PhD, AAMC, senior director. “The AAMC is focused on diversifying the physician workforce, including American Indian and Alaska Native students, to ensure the next generation of physicians reflects the communities they serve.”

Recommendations

Modeling India, the rest of the world can address minority medical schools. The United States has addressed diversity by establishing minority medical schools. However, given the ratio, the United States can afford and fund minority medical schools from  4 to another 15 schools.  There were 10 HUCU minority medical schools in 1920, due to quality issues, there are only 3 minority medical schools continuing to function, namely, Howard, More House, Meharry, producing 14% of medical students from the minority community.

Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU) is a private, nonprofit, community-founded, student-centered University, committed to cultivating diverse health professionals,  who are dedicated to social justice and health equity for the underserved populations through outstanding education, clinical service, and community engagement. Minority students represent over 67 percent of its total enrollment.

There ar some enocuraging sings recently. African American student enrollment is more than double the national average (32 percent CDU compared to 14 percent nationally). Also, Hispanic student enrollment is above the national average (17 percent CDU compared to 14 percent nationally).

While India with its annual GDP of 3 trillion Dollars is able to invest in establishing 317 new medical schools in less than 10 years, adding 40,000 new medical seats to these colleges, the United States with an economy of 33 trillion Dollars should be able to invest far greater in the education, especially for the minority communities.

The USA can add at least one minority school for each state, beginning with at least 15 more new minority medical schools in the states with a sizable number of minority population. The United States can multiply the model to most states similar to the model India has.

Federal funding of 2 billion dollars per medical school, in addition to philanthropic contributions will go a long way in enhancing the participation of minority communities, including African American, Hispanic and Native Americans in the much-needed medical education, and contribute towards adding more minority and HBCU medical schools creating a minimum of 1,500 or more minority physicians per year to the main pool of physicians’ community and provide needed health care in the community.

Similarly, establishing medical schools for Native American Indians can address this gap in giving representation to this population. Out of the estimated 5.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIAN) in the U.S., there are only about 3,400 are physicians, just 0.4% of the physician workforce, according to a 2018 AMA Council on Medical Education report, “Study of Declining Native American Medical Student Enrollment.

In addition, the United States must work towards capacity building in Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners from the Minority communities in bridging the wide gap that is present today.

The India model of minority medical schools and capacity building can be followed across world. The India model of mandatory departments can help build specialists, catering to the country’s needs. India’s model of one medical college every district can help access to high quality health care in the rural and remote areas of the country.

Illinois Leads The Way With Legislation To Aid International Medical Graduates

At a time when the State of Illinois is grappling with a significant shortage of physicians, the signing of two new legislations by Governor of Illinois, J B Pritzker, will be crucial in reducing barriers to licensing for internationally trained physicians. Currently, 12,000 residents of Illinois hold international medical degrees, and yet they face restrictions preventing them from utilizing their expertise to offer healthcare services.

The new legislation includes creation of a permanent alternative pathway to full licensure for International Medical Graduates (IMGs), marking a significant departure from other State approaches that focus on establishing restricted licenses. Additionally, the creation of the role of an ombudsman within the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) tasked with aiding IMGs in navigating the process of relicensing will further enable this process.

Thanking Governor Pritzker for the initiative, Trustee of Oak Brook, Illinois, and Past President of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), Dr. Suresh Reddy told News India Times, “International graduates are well trained, and on par with American graduates. Allowing international graduates to work as healthcare workers in the United States after they complete the licensing exams is a huge step in healthcare delivery in US especially in areas of need.” Dr. Reddy who’s also the Past President of the Indian-American Medical Association, emphasized “It’s a win-win situation for all those who are involved.”

Calling it “a groundbreaking step to alleviate critical labor shortages in the healthcare sector”

Upwardly Global, a national organization dedicated to assisting immigrants and refugees in leveraging their international credentials to relaunch their professional careers within the United States commended Governor Pritzker’s legislations.

According to Upwardly Global, the announcement comes after more than a year of extensive work between Upwardly Global, Illinois State Rep. Theresa Mah, Ph.D. (D-Chi.), IDFPR, the Illinois State Medical Society, as well as both national and local advocacy groups. The collaborative effort has been focused on tackling the issue of untapped talent among IMGs within the State.

“Illinois is setting a new standard for the rest of the country when it comes to internationally trained medical professionals,” said President and CEO of Upwardly Global, Jina Krause-Vilmar, in a statement. “Upwardly Global is proud to have co-created this legislative win, which recognizes the value of internationally trained healthcare professionals who, despite their expertise, often remain on the sidelines during critical health crises.”

Founder and former President of AAPI, Dr. Navin Shah, told News India Times, “I welcome the move of Governor Pritzker which will be helpful for patients in the State of Illinois.

Already, 80,000 Indian doctors in the United States are doing well in training as well as in practice. Not only are they taking good care of patients but also training new doctors. This is a great step given the huge shortage of healthcare professionals in this country.”

Picture : Upwardly Global

In the 1980s, Dr. Shah worked to achieve equality for international doctors alongside US physicians. In 1987, along with the support of his colleagues he helped replace “Foreign” with “International” rebranding Foreign Medical Graduates (FMGs) as International Medical Graduates in the battle against discrimination.

“There is growing demand for healthcare workers across the nation. Between 2017 and 2021, states from Arizona to Virginia saw an increase in the number of online job postings for unique healthcare worker positions. Immigrants often punch above their weight, representing a larger share of workers in healthcare roles like physicians, surgeons, dental hygienists, and respiratory therapists than their share of the population,” pointed out a special report “The Growing Demand for Healthcare Workers: A State-by-State View” by the American Immigration Council.

The report which highlights the critical contribution of immigrants in alleviating significant workforce shortages within the state-level healthcare sector, underscored, “Although there is a growing need for healthcare workers, many immigrants who received specialized training abroad cannot practice in the State. In 2021, many immigrants with healthcare-related professional and doctorate degrees were working in a healthcare occupation that did not require one.”

Owner of Simply Smiles, in Ashburn, Virginia, Dr. Aman Sabharwal, told News India Times, “One of the biggest challenges we face in healthcare is access to care. For example, my home State of Virginia currently faces a shortage of dentists and hygienists, particularly in rural areas. I believe by streamlining the licensure process for internationally trained healthcare providers we can improve our access to care for all patients.” (News India Times)

ITServe Alliance’s CSR Program Contributes Over $1.5 Million Towards STEM Education, Empowering Future Generations

“The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of the ITServe Alliance has contributed $1.5 Million in STEM activities and various welfare programs,” said Samba Movva, Director of ITServe Alliance’s CSR. “From the very beginning, ITServe’s mission has been to empower local communities through a wide range of initiatives. ITServe believes in the transformative power of STEM scholarships, STEM training, and STEM internships, which enable individuals to reach their full potential and contribute to a thriving society,” he added.

Elaborating on the unique importance of such a noble and much-needed initiative by ITServe, Vinay Mahajan, President of ITServe Alliance said, “STEM education is something where I feel there is a lot of scope in the United States, especially for the availability of IT jobs and IT skills. There is a shortage across the United States, and local talent is not available. Our efforts have been to get the shortage filled right now, without which we will be lagging behind in terms of technology and software development. Therefore, we are focusing on building the local population and promoting STEM education in the US.”

The organization of multi-talented individuals has set targets of awarding 100 STEM scholarships, providing life-changing opportunities to deserving individuals, empowering and helping educate a diverse group of individuals from across the nation.

In order to achieve these lofty goals, ITServe has assembled an exceptional team of committed and talented national leaders to make its mission accomplished. The STEM Team is chaired by distinguished Chairs for each area. They are: Tanuj Gundlapalli, STEM Scholarship Chair 2023;  Jyoti Vazirani, STEM Internship Chair 2023; and Venkata Manthena, STEM Training Chair 2023.

Tanuj Gundlapalli, STEM Scholarship Chair 2023 says, “ITServe offers as many as 100 scholarships to the needy students in the communities they live and serve. Each student chosen for the scholarship is given $5,000 towards one’s educational needs. Through the partnership with our local Chapters, focusing on community colleges, ITServe has given away nearly 80 scholarships this year.”

ITServe has cultivated strong partnerships with over 50 prestigious universities and community colleges, forming a robust network to help achieve STEM goals. At the local level, each of the 21 ITServe Chapters is actively engaged with community non-profit organizations, forming vital partnerships to drive ITSeve’s mission and objectives forward.

Some notable institutions that are part of the collaborative network include Arizona State University, Bronx Community College Foundation, Bucks County Community College, Georgia State University, Illinois State University, Oklahoma State University, University of North Carolina, University of Texas at Dallas, University of Texas at San Antonio, University of Virginia, and St. Charles Community College, among others.

Picture: TheUNN

CSR has a broad range of initiatives aimed at creating a positive impact in various areas. CSR team works to establish partnerships with educational institutions, organizations, and industry experts to provide training opportunities that enhance STEM skills and knowledge. This equips individuals with the tools they need to excel in STEM careers and contributes to building a robust talent pipeline.

Since ITServe’s inception in 2010, the CSR team has embarked on a remarkable journey in the realm of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Starting with small steps, it has made a significant impact on the local communities.

According to Vinod Babu Uppu, Governing Board Chair, “The ITServe CSR vision is empowering local communities through Education and Training, creating local employment, and contributing to the economy as a whole. We actively engage in initiatives that support education, healthcare, and community development, among other areas.”

ITServe encourages and facilitates member engagement in volunteer activities, enabling them to contribute their skills, expertise, time, and resources, ensuring that they collectively make a significant and lasting impact. “By leveraging our collective efforts, we make a meaningful impact on local communities and societal well-being with the objective of making a positive and lasting difference in the areas that matter most to us,” Movva said.

Jagadeesh Mosali, President-Elect of ITServe said, “We are committed to empowering local communities through STEM advocacy, educating the underprivileged, and thus making an impact on humanity. By advocating for these educational opportunities, we aim to bridge the gap and provide equal access to quality education,” Mosali pointed out.

Over the years, ITServe Alliance has established a name for itself as the center point of information for its members and the larger community, covering a variety of areas ranging from immigration, technology, economy, and many more that are relevant to its members. ITServe has 21 Chapters in several states across the United States, bringing resources and service to the larger humanity in every part of this innovation country.

“Our ability to empower our local communities is strengthened by the generous donations by our leadership and member organizations. They play a crucial role in the success of our programs. Our partners play a vital role in helping us broaden our reach and positively impacting the lives of the lesser fortunate in our communities by helping us broaden our reach. I am proud that this respected platform is today more accessible and worthy of your time spent for the common benefit and serving the communities in need across the Chapters through our CSR programs and initiatives,” Mahajan added.

Ongoing participation and commitment are essential to reach ITServe’s lofty goals. The ITSere CSR Team  “implores and passionately calls upon our esteemed ITSerrve members and individuals alike to wholeheartedly engage and actively participate in the diverse range of ITServe’s CSR activities.”

“Together, we form an extraordinary team, united in our mission to achieve our CSR goals for 2023 and beyond. I feel incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by such exceptional individuals, all working diligently to create a positive impact and shape a better future for those we serve,” Movva said. “Together, we are making a tangible difference in the lives of those in need. Our approach not only amplifies our impact but also fosters a strong sense of community within ITSERVE. We are proud to be part of a larger movement that extends beyond individual chapters, uniting us under a shared vision of corporate social responsibility.”

Founded in 2010, ITServe Alliance is the largest association of Information Technology Services Organizations functioning across the United States. Established with the objective of being the collective voice of all Information Technology companies with similar interests in the United States, ITServe Alliance has evolved as a resourceful and respected platform to collaborate and initiate measures in the direction of protecting common interests and ensuring collective success. For more information, please visit: www.itserve.org

University of Houston Initiates Tamil Studies Program in Partnership with ICCR

Tamil Studies classes have commenced at the University of Houston, marking a significant step forward in the institution’s collaboration with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). This academic endeavor stems from the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) inked between ICCR and the University of Houston (UoH) in June 2023. These inaugural classes are under the tutelage of Dr. Vijayalakshmi, a distinguished visiting professor of Indian Studies.

The inauguration of this educational endeavor was attended by Manjunath Chenneerapa, the Consul General of India in Houston, UoH’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences dean, the director of Indian Studies, and representatives from both UoH and the Houston Tamil Studies Chair. This partnership, rooted in the MoU, has laid the foundation for the ICCR chair of Indian Studies, which will be held by a visiting scholar from India, specializing in Tamil studies, commencing in the fall of 2023.

Picture: TheUNN

The visiting professor assumes a multifaceted role, encompassing the education of students, collaboration on research initiatives, and the delivery of public presentations aimed at promoting Tamil culture. With a global community of over 80 million speakers, the Tamil language boasts an ancient heritage, positioning it among the world’s oldest languages. Remarkably, the United States is home to nearly 300,000 Tamil-Americans.

UoH President Renu Khator, who holds the distinction of being the first Indian immigrant to lead a comprehensive research university in the United States, expressed gratitude for the collaboration with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. She noted that this partnership would undoubtedly fortify the cultural bonds between the two nations. She emphasized that expanding the university’s international presence enriches the educational journey of their students, equipping them for success on the global stage.

The University of Houston has become one of only three American universities to participate in ICCR’s global Indian chairs Abroad program, alongside Rutgers University and the University of Pittsburgh. Dan O’Connor, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, underscored the pivotal role played by the visiting professor in bridging diverse cultures. O’Connor stated, “India is not only a modern, global hub of business and culture; it’s an ancient hub as well, replete with a history, literature, and architectural heritage spanning millennia. It’s imperative to safeguard this legacy through collaborative partnerships like this, for the benefit of tomorrow’s global leaders, some of whom are currently being nurtured right here at UH.”

The roots of this academic collaboration trace back to 2019 when the non-profit organization Houston Tamil Studies Chair, Inc. pledged a substantial $2 million donation to the University of Houston. This generous contribution led to the establishment of an endowed chair in Tamil studies. Additionally, the Mutyala family contributed $250,000, endowing the Sita and Bhaskara Rao Mutyala Professorship of India Studies, a position currently held by Sarasij Majumder.

The Essay Writing Competition conducted by Indo American Press Club

The Indo-American Press Club invites entries to the Essay Competition organized in conjunction with the 9th International Media Conference of the IAPC.

IAPC was formed to unite the media groups and the Indian diaspora media fraternity across North America under one umbrella to work together, support one another, and provide a unified voice to the mainstream media world and the larger community.

The competition is conducted in two categories namely Junior (Ages 8 – 14) and Senior (15 – 20).

The topic for Junior Category: ( Why I like / dislike social media ) should not exceed 1000 words.

Senior Section Topic: (Press freedom in danger) Not exceeding 1200 words.

Your entries in English must be received by the email address: [email protected] before August 30, 2023. Contestants from anywhere in the world can participate.

Winners’ essays will be included in the IMC 2023 Souvenir, released during the Conference. Cash awards and certificates for the winners will be distributed at the IAPC International Media Conference from October 7 to 9 at the Hilton Stamford Hotel in Connecticut.

6 Kids of Indian Origin Among 10 Finalists in Prestigious 3M Young Scientist Challenge 2023

Six Indian American students are among this year’s top ten finalists in the annual 3M Young Scientist Challenge, the nation’s premier middle school science competition.

This year’s finalists ranging in age from 11-14 identified an everyday problem in their community or the world and submitted a one- to two-minute video communicating the science behind their solution.

Six Indian Americans among top 10 2023 3M Young Scientist Challenge finalists are: Anisha Dhoot, Portland, Oregon; Ishaan Iyer, Rancho Cucamonga, California; Shripriya Kalbhavi, San Jose, California; Anish Kosaraju, Saratoga, California; Adhip Maitra, Oviedo, Florida; and Shruti Sivaraman, Austin, Texas.

The competition event will take place from Oct 9-10, 2023, at the 3M Innovation Center in Minneapolis.

Each finalist in the competition for students in grades 5-8 will be evaluated on a series of challenges, including a presentation of their completed innovation.

Each challenge will be scored independently by a panel of judges. The grand prize winner will receive $25,000, a unique destination trip, and the title of America’s Top Young Scientist.

Anisha Dhoot’s project focuses on utilizing kelp seaweed to improve soil quality and crop selection. She applied to 3M Young Scientist Challenge to share her passion of STEM learning and research with others and to motivate younger students to achieve their true potential.

“Girls are underrepresented in STEM field in both high school/college level and later in professional careers and I want to reverse that trend,” Dhoot says.

In 15 years she hopes to be a successful STEM professional working in a technology company on some of the world’s hardest problems to improve the life of every person on earth.

Ishaan Iyer created a cost-effective Braille device that encodes the English alphabet into Braille language and converts it into a tactile Braille cell.

He entered the 3M Young Scientist Challenge because he is “passionate about science and technology, and I believe that the competition provides an excellent opportunity for me to showcase my skills and ideas in these areas.”

In 15 years he hopes to be a rocket scientist working on designing and building inexpensive and eco friendly spacecrafts that common man can use to explore the universe.

Shripriya Kalbhavi developed EasyBZ, a cost-effective microneedle patch that allows for self-automated drug delivery without pills or needles.

She entered the 3M Young Scientist Challenge because she wants to help change lives. “I host a podcast called ‘Famous Personalities,’ and as part of the theme of my show, I research women scientists and speak about their lives, achievements, and research. Scientific research and innovations have always interested me, and I find the scientists, especially doctors, all around me to be extremely inspiring because they work to help people every day.”

In 15 years she hopes to be “wading through my residency training after I finish med school so that I can fulfill my dream of becoming a practicing neurosurgeon.”

“I have always felt a calling towards contributing to my community in the field of medicine, especially when it comes to neuroscience and womens’ health, and I would love the opportunity to perform precise work as a neurosurgeon,” she says.

Anish Kosaraju built a new method to improve cybersecurity measures by combating cyber account takeovers that does not require Multi Factor Authentication.

He hopes to use the resources and mentorship provided by the 3M Young Scientist Challenge to take his project to the next level and improve the safety of the internet.

In 15 years Kosaraju hopes to be a cybersecurity expert who helps companies and individuals improve their security.

Adhip Maitra developed a computer program that can detect cases of Ptosis, a condition in which the upper eyelid droops abnormally low.

He has “a love for science and I think this experience will be a great scientific learning opportunity for me as the research process teaches many aspects to me.”

In 15 years Maitra hopes to beg continuing research and development in future for the benefit of the masses.

Shruti Sivaraman created a low-cost device and app that can detect and diagnose diabetic retinopathy (DR) by taking retinal images without the use of dilation drops.

She “entered the 3M Young Scientist Challenge because I believe that it is an extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will allow me to present my ideas to a science community as well as get the chance to expand my ideas making DR-Check the product I first imagined it to be!”

In 15 years Sivaraman hopes to be a computer engineer and help solve some of the big challenges faced in the world. I enjoy helping people around me. I like to observe the challenges or problems people face and solve those.

From 2012 until 2020, America’s Top Young Scientist title has gone to six Indian American students: Deepika Kurup (2012), Sahil Doshi (2014), Maanasa Mendu (2016), Gitanjali Rao (2017), Rishab Jain (2018), and Anika Chebrolu (2020).

The 3M Young Scientist Challenge, recognizing innovative young minds in the US, has 6 Indian American kids among its 10 finalists. Their projects range from a cost-effective Braille display device to early detection of ptosis, a smart app for diagnosing Diabetic Retinopathy, machine learning-based cybersecurity solutions, microneedle patches for painless medication, and utilizing kelp seaweed for sustainable soil nutrition and climate change mitigation.

The winner of the challenge, scheduled for October, will be awarded a $25K grand prize, while all finalists receive $1000 and an exclusive summer mentorship program with a 3M scientist.

20 Countries with the Best Education

We will discuss 20 nations with the best education in this article. We will likewise examine the arising patterns around Edtech, the vital participants in the business, and the stressing quantities of missing educators all over the planet. To avoid our definite investigation, go directly to 5 Nations with the Best Schooling.

Because it establishes the foundation for individual and societal development, high-quality education is essential for nations. Social mobility, disparities, and a culture of lifelong learning are all bolstered by a robust educational system. At last, putting resources into the best training guarantees a country’s seriousness, supportable development, and a more promising time to come for its kin. Consequently, as countries endeavour to give quality schooling to their residents, a few nations have arisen as worldwide forerunners in advancing a climate that sustains learning, development, and decisive reasoning.

As indicated by OECD Training Rankings, Estonia, leads among all OECD nations with a typical PISA score of 526, firmly followed by Japan and Korea with scores of 520. Colombia, the OECD nation with the lowest performance and an average score of 406, is on the opposite end of the spectrum. This reveals a significant discrepancy of 120 points between the OECD’s highest-performing and lowest-performing nations.

Which Nations Have The Hardest School Systems?

It is valid when they say mental durability cultivates decisive reasoning. At the point when difficulties are dealt with directly, understudies foster strength, steadiness, and a faithful obligation to greatness. This association is especially obvious in nations like South Korea, Japan, and Singapore, known for their hardest school systems. They focus on scholarly greatness as well as set thorough norms for their understudies.

Where is EdTech Headed?

The Coronavirus pandemic powered the ascent of computerized training all over the planet which is presently heading towards a future described by expanded openness, customized growth opportunities, and the incorporation of arising instructive innovations. Such a future is guaranteed by the patterns saw around Edtech and Edtech Organizations.

First, in 2021, venture capitalists worldwide invested more than $20.8 billion in the education technology industry. Online education is becoming the new norm as businesses continuously upskill their workforce. The Worldwide EdTech funding interests in 2022 came to $10.6 billion, encountering a 49% downfall contrasted with the record levels of 2021. However, it is anticipated that growth in the United States, Europe, and India will replace China’s dominance in EdTech funding in 2023, bringing levels back to pre-pandemic levels.

Also, EdTech firms are consolidating and cooperating to accomplish economies of scale and address high client securing costs. For instance, in the year 2022, 2U Inc. TWOU) acquainted a significant element with its certificate organization model, growing its help for a more extensive scope of projects and foundations on the edX stage. Universities can now offer a variety of levels of technology-enabled services through this updated model, allowing them to customize partnership packages to meet their specific requirements. Importantly, 2U Inc.’s (NYSE:) degree programs all TWOU) and edX, university partners keep control over important academic decisions like tuition and admission.

Furthermore, enormous firms are putting resources into representative reskilling and upskilling to draw in and hold ability. To meet the demand for reskilling and upskilling, educational technology companies are expanding their enterprise offerings. This was exemplified by the retail monster, Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT). It is collaborating with edtech company Springboard to offer short-form programs through Walmart Inc., which is expanding its contributions to learning and development. The Live Better U program of WMT).

The goal of these programs is to improve associates’ skills in highly sought-after fields like cybersecurity, software engineering, and data analytics. Walmart Inc. (NYSE: Since 2018, approximately $333 million has been saved on tuition as a result of WMT’s investment in education, which includes paying for all associates’ college tuition and other related costs. The program has shown positive outcomes, with enrollees being bound to get advancements and remain with the organization.

Last but not least, Edtech providers are concentrating on enhancing user experiences by providing services with added value, such as individualized mentoring, job preparation, and community support. In accordance with this pattern, Key Training Inc (NASDAQ: STRA’s) US Advanced education portion has seen development interestingly beginning around 2020. In the first quarter of 2023, the segment saw year-over-year growth of 2.3% thanks to an increase in Capella and Strayer University enrollments. The development can be credited to both individual enlistments and enrollments through manager affiliations.

As a feature of its administrations, Vital Instruction Inc (NASDAQ: Sophia Learning, a subscription-based service offered by STRA), provides students with access to numerous college-level courses for a monthly fee of $99. Moreover, through a new organization with the College of Individuals, the organization has accessed a potential understudy base of 126,000. The credits procured through this program are adaptable to accomplice schools and colleges. The program’s success is demonstrated by Strategic Education Inc.’s (NASDAQ: SEI) impressive 24% year-over-year increase in total subscribers and 36% increase in revenue. STRA) in January of 2023.

Losing Educators: A Developing Concern

Despite the fact that EdTech and advanced schooling are on the ascent, conventional instructing and gaining have not been wiped out from instructive organizations. Notwithstanding, while at the same time educating is quite possibly of the most regarded calling on the planet, its nonattendance torment instructive establishments around the world. Across a number of European nations, including France, Germany, Portugal, Sweden, and Italy, teacher shortages are becoming a major issue. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is making recruitment challenges and a general sense of disillusionment within the teaching profession more difficult to overcome in these nations.

Germany, in spite of having one of the most mind-blowing schooling systems, it states that “a deficiency of 25,000 educators by 2025, while Portugal expects a deficit of 30,000 by 2030”.

France as of now has 4,000 empty educating positions. The absence of engaging quality in the calling can be credited to variables like low wages, crumbling working circumstances, and an apparent absence of status. Europe is not the only region experiencing similar teacher shortages; the US and nations in sub-Saharan Africa are likewise confronted with challenges in finding and holding educators.

Approach

To rank nations with the best schooling, we used a philosophy in view of three key markers: consumption, presence of value organizations, and strength of the schooling system. To begin, we investigated the proportion of GDP allotted to education expenditures. We obtained information for Gross domestic product allotment towards instruction from the IMF. Furthermore, we thought about the quantity of lead and profoundly positioned establishments, with a specific spotlight on colleges stressing research. Last but not least, we looked at how citizens in general felt about the quality of the education they received. Every marker was relegated a score out of 10, and these scores were then found the middle value of to compute a general score out of 10 for every country.

The nations with the best education are as follows:

  1. Slovenia

Consumption: 9.1 Existence of Good Organizations: 7.0

Strength of Schooling System: 6.5

Normal Score: 7.53 Despite its small size, Slovenia has a very good education system. The obligatory essential schooling guarantees that understudies get a strong groundwork and urges them to seek after additional instruction. The framework’s accentuation on both professional and scholarly review encourages a harmony between scholarly turn of events and industrialization inside the country. In addition, the reasonableness of schooling guarantees that understudies have equivalent chances to succeed and take full advantage of their true capacity.

  1. Israel’s expenses: 8.8

Presence of Value Foundations: 7.2

Strength of Schooling System: 7.0

Normal Score: 7.66

As indicated by Wisevoter, Israel positions as the 22nd most instructed country internationally, with a great 46.01% of its populace having finished tertiary schooling. Moreover, Israel flaunts a somewhat high for each capita Gross domestic product, demonstrating serious areas of strength for a. Additionally, the country puts a lot of money into education, demonstrating its dedication to providing high-quality learning opportunities.

  1. New Zealand

Use: 7.6 The Existence of Reputable Institutions: 8.1

Strength of School System: 7.5

Normal Score: 7.73 The education system in New Zealand is highly regarded for its innovativeness and quality. Two noticeable colleges in the nation known for their exploration greatness are the College of Auckland and the College of Otago, drawing in understudies from around the world and adding to pivotal examination in different fields.

  1. Taiwan

Consumption: 8.2 The Existence of Reputable Institutions: 7.0

Strength of Schooling System: 8.3

Normal Score: 7.83 The high standards and strong emphasis on academic excellence of Taiwan’s education system are widely acknowledged. In international tests like the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the nation consistently performs well. Taiwan puts huge significance on science, math, and innovation training, cultivating a culture of development and logical examination. This makes Taiwan quite possibly of the most exceptional country in innovation, especially in hardware.

  1. Norway

Use: 9.5 The Existence of Reputable Organizations: 7.7

Strength of School System: 8.0

Normal Score: 8.07

Norway is a country with the best expectations of living alongside a very much respected school system which is known for its obligation to inclusivity, correspondence, and high scholarly norms. The nation provides free education at all levels, including higher education, and places a strong emphasis on early childhood education. Additionally, Norway is home to a few regarded colleges, including the College of Oslo and the Norwegian College of Science and Innovation, known for their exploration result and scholastic greatness.

  1. Finland’s expenses: 9.2

Presence of Value Organizations: 8.4 The Education System’s Strength: Average Score: 8.5 8.37 Finland’s exceptional educational system is well-known all over the world. It reliably positions among the top entertainers in worldwide schooling appraisals like the Program for Global Understudy Evaluation (PISA). Finnish schools focus on a comprehensive way to deal with instruction that values understudy prosperity and subsequently, advances an affection for learning.

  1. Belgium’s expenses: 8.4 The Existence of Reputable Institutions: 7.8

Strength of School System: 9.2

Normal Score: 8.46

Belgium is one of the nations with the greatest school systems that is known for its meticulousness and variety. The country’s structure is one of a kind, and the Flemish, French, and German-speaking communities each have their own educational systems. It puts serious areas of strength for an on multilingualism, with understudies regularly learning numerous dialects. KU Leuven, which is known for its extraordinary research and academic contributions, is one of several prestigious universities in Belgium.

  1. Japan

Consumption: 8.0

Presence of Value Establishments: 8.7

Strength of School System: 8.7

Normal Score: 8.47

Japan’s schooling system is profoundly respected around the world for its scholarly greatness, thorough norms, and solid accentuation on discipline and devotion. Japanese students consistently perform well on the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), particularly in science-related subjects.

  1. Singapore

Consumption: 8.1

Presence of Value Organizations: 9.2 The Education System’s Strength: 8.3

Normal Score: 8.53 Singapore places an emphasis on responsive reforms, differentiated learning pathways, and educational rigor and competitiveness. The Public College of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Mechanical College (NTU) add to its prosperity through the top schooling system rankings, research accentuation, and extensive projects across different disciplines. Singapore’s school system is generally respected everywhere. In any case, the explanation we’ve positioned it a little lower than different nations in our rundown is its high understudy educator proportion and the way that understudies are likewise frequently isolated in light of grades.

  1. Australia’s expenses: 7.9

Presence of Value Foundations: 8.5

Strength of School System: 9.5

Normal Score: 8.63

The nation is home to a few lofty colleges, including the College of Melbourne and the Australian Public College, which reliably rank among the top colleges universally. Australia likewise stresses exploration and advancement, making it an appealing objective for worldwide understudies.

  1. Germany’s expenses: 8.7

Presence of Value Organizations: 8.74

Strength of Schooling System: Average Score: 8.9 8.67

Germany’s schooling system is the most great free schooling system on the planet. The framework is massively successful because of its accentuation on commonsense abilities, solid professional preparation projects, and close coordinated effort among industry and the scholarly community that outcomes in a talented labor force and financial seriousness.

  1. Switzerland’s expenses: 8.6 The Existence of Reputable Institutions: 8.6 The Education System’s Strength: 8.8

Normal Score: 8.67

Switzerland is among the top nations with top notch schooling. It is well-known for its exceptional educational system, which places a strong emphasis on vocational training and has high academic standards. The nation is home to elite colleges like ETH Zurich and the College of Zurich, known for their examination and advancement. Furthermore, Switzerland was additionally one of the top nations with the best of life heading into 2023, with its residents appreciating one of the greatest typical salaries worldwide.

  1. Spending in the Netherlands: 8.9 The Existence of Reputable Institutions: 7.8

Strength of School System: 9.4

Normal Score: 8.7 The Netherlands places a high value on interdisciplinary instruction, hands-on experience, and critical thinking, which helps to create an interactive and student-centered learning environment. The Netherlands is a popular destination for individuals looking for high-quality education and cultural diversity because of its high standard of living and strong emphasis on internationalization.

  1. South Korea

Consumption: 9.0 The Existence of Reputable Institutions: 9.3 The Education System’s Strength: 7.8

Normal Score: 8.7

South Korea is famous for having one of the world’s top school systems, especially succeeding in the field of designing. Recognizing the significance of education in propelling the economy forward, the government places a significant emphasis on it.

  1. France

Use: 8.3

Presence of Value Organizations: 9.3 The Education System’s Strength: 8.7

Normal Score: 8.76 The strong focus of the French government, remarkable investment, and extensive educational tradition and history are to blame for the country’s high quality of education. Schools and universities with adequate resources that place an emphasis on academic excellence and foster a culture of intellectual rigor are a result of these factors.

  1. Canada’s expenses: 8.5

Presence of Value Establishments: 8.9

Strength of Schooling System: 9.0

Normal Score: 8.6 Canada’s renowned universities serve as an example of the country’s educational system. McGill University and the University of Toronto are two notable establishments. These colleges reliably rank among the top on the planet, offering a great many projects and developing state of the art research. They contribute to Canada’s reputation as a global leader in higher education by attracting students from a variety of backgrounds to experience its high-quality learning environment. They place an emphasis on academic excellence, innovation, and inclusivity. Denmark

Consumption: 9.4

Presence of Value Organizations: 8.0

Strength of Schooling System: Average Score: 9.1 8.83

Denmark puts major areas of strength for an on request based learning, cooperative undertakings, and involved encounters. Its obligation to instructor preparing and proficient advancement guarantees profoundly qualified teachers who can successfully connect with and support understudies. The nation’s emphasis on instructive value and social government assistance likewise adds to its standing for giving comprehensive and top notch training for all understudies. Denmark’s capital Copenhagen is one of the 5 most joyful urban areas on the planet.

  1. Denmark

Expenditure: 9.4

Presence of Quality Institutions: 8.0

Strength of Education System: 9.1

Average Score: 8.83

Denmark places a strong emphasis on inquiry-based learning, collaborative projects, and hands-on experiences. Its commitment to teacher training and professional development ensures highly qualified educators who can effectively engage and support students. The country’s focus on educational equity and social welfare also contributes to its reputation for providing inclusive and high-quality education for all students. Denmark’s capital Copenhagen is one of the 5 happiest cities in the world.

  1. Sweden

Consumption: 9.3 The Existence of Reputable Institutions: 8.2

Strength of Schooling System: Average Score: 9.3 8.93 There are a number of important reasons why Sweden’s educational system is so well-known. First and foremost, it underscores understudy independence, decisive reasoning, and inventiveness. Second, the system encourages a holistic approach to education, individualized learning, and supportive learning environments. Finally, Sweden puts essentially in educator preparing and proficient turn of events, guaranteeing exceptionally qualified instructors who can successfully meet the assorted necessities of understudies. Sweden is additionally one of the 15 Most Exceptional Nations on the planet on account of its schooling system.

  1. United Kingdom

Consumption: 7.8

Presence of Value Foundations: 9.5

Strength of School System: 10

Normal Score: 9.1

Referred to for renowned establishments, for example, Oxford and Cambridge, the Unified Realm is around the world perceived for its excellent schooling system. With a standing for high scholastic principles, the UK offers a different scope of courses and invites worldwide understudies. The country’s obligation to quality schooling has laid out it as a forerunner in the field, drawing in students from around the world. UK is likewise among the 20 Most Skeptic Nations on the planet.

  1. US

Consumption: 7.7

Presence of Value Establishments: 10

Strength of School System: Average Score: 10 9.23

From our rundown of best nations with the best schooling, this one must be an easy decision. Its prestigious colleges, like Harvard, Stanford, and MIT, offer top notch training across different disciplines (see 15 Colleges with the Greatest Enrichments). The US likewise advances a culture of development and exploration, with broad assets and open doors for scholarly and proficient development. The country’s reputation as an education powerhouse is bolstered by its dedication to educational diversity, academic freedom, and entrepreneurial spirit.

With an end goal to further develop access and learning, Apple Inc (NASDAQ: AAPL), through its Has returned to School advancement and the Advanced education Offer, gives motivating forces and limits to understudies and instructive foundations. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) is making its products more accessible. AAPL) permits educators and students to utilize Apple AAPL)’s cutting-edge software and technology in the learning process to enhance the educational experience as a whole.

Biden’s Plan Cuts Student Loan Payments for Millions to $0

The Biden administration calls it a “student loan safety net.” Opponents call it a backdoor attempt to make college free. And it could be the next battleground in the legal fight over student loan relief.

Starting this summer, millions of Americans with student loans will be able to enroll in a new repayment plan that offers some of the most lenient terms ever. Interest won’t pile up as long as borrowers make regular payments. Millions of people will have monthly payments reduced to $0. And in as little as 10 years, any remaining debt will be canceled.

It’s known as the SAVE Plan, and although it was announced last year, it has mostly been overshadowed by President Joe Biden’s proposal for mass student loan cancellation. But now, after the Supreme Court struck down Biden’s forgiveness plan, the repayment option is taking center stage.

Since the ruling Biden has proposed an alternate approach to cancel debt and also shifted attention to the lesser-known initiative, calling it “the most affordable repayment plan ever.” The typical borrower who enrolls in the plan will save $1,000 a month, he said.

Republicans have fought against the plan, saying it oversteps the president’s authority. Sen. Bill Cassidy, the ranking Republican on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, called it “deeply unfair” to the 87% of Americans who don’t have student loans.

The Congressional Budget Office previously estimated over the next decade the plan would cost $230 billion, which would be even higher now that the forgiveness plan has been struck down. Estimates from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania put the cost at up to $361 billion.

Emboldened by the Supreme Court’s decision on cancellation, some opponents say it’s a matter of time before the repayment plan also faces a legal challenge.

Here’s what to know about the SAVE Plan:

What is an income-driven repayment plan?

The U.S. Education Department offers several plans for repaying federal student loans. Under the standard plan, borrowers are charged a fixed monthly amount that ensures all their debt will be repaid after 10 years. But if borrowers have difficulty paying that amount, they can enroll in one of four plans that offer lower monthly payments based on income and family size. Those are known as income-driven repayment plans.

Income-driven options have been offered for years and generally cap monthly payments at 10% of a borrower’s discretionary income. If a borrower’s earnings are low enough, their bill is reduced to $0. And after 20 or 25 years, any remaining debt gets erased.

How is Biden’s plan different?

As part of his debt relief plan announced last year, Biden said his Education Department would create a new income-driven repayment plan that lowers payments even further. It became known as the SAVE Plan, and it’s generally intended to replace existing income-driven plans.

Borrowers will be able to apply later this summer, but some of the changes will be phased in over time.

Right away, more people will be eligible for $0 payments. The new plan won’t require borrowers to make payments if they earn less than 225% of the federal poverty line — $32,800 a year for a single person. The cutoff for current plans, by contrast, is 150% of the poverty line, or $22,000 a year for a single person.

Another immediate change aims to prevent interest from snowballing.

As long as borrowers make their monthly payments, their overall balance won’t increase. Once they cover their adjusted monthly payment — even if it’s $0 — any remaining interest will be waived.

Other major changes will take effect in July 2024.

Most notably, payments on undergraduate loans will be capped at 5% of discretionary income, down from 10% now. Those with graduate and undergraduate loans will pay between 5% and 10%, depending on their original loan balance. For millions of Americans, monthly payments could be reduced by half.

Next July will also bring a quicker road to loan forgiveness. Starting then, borrowers with initial balances of $12,000 or less will get the remainder of their loans canceled after 10 years of payments. For each $1,000 borrowed beyond that, the cancellation will come after an additional year of payments.

For example, a borrower with an original balance of $14,000 would get all remaining debt cleared after 12 years. Payments made before 2024 will count toward forgiveness.

How do I apply?

The Education Department says it will notify borrowers when the new application process launches this summer. Those enrolled in an existing plan known as REPAYE will automatically be moved into the SAVE plan. Borrowers will also be able to sign up by contacting their loan servicers directly.

It will be available to all borrowers in the Direct Loan Program who are in good standing on their loans.

What about borrowers who missed out on earlier programs?

The administration announced last year it would make fixes to correct mistakes in tracking payments that qualify toward forgiveness under income-driven repayment plans. As a result, the education department said Friday, it will wipe out $39 billion in debt held by more than 800,000 borrowers

Officials said eligible borrowers will be informed starting Friday that they qualify for forgiveness without further action on their part.

“For far too long, borrowers fell through the cracks of a broken system that failed to keep accurate track of their progress towards forgiveness,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said.

What are the pros and cons?

Supporters say Biden’s plan will simplify repayment options and offer relief to millions of borrowers. The Biden administration has argued that ballooning student debt puts college out of reach for too many Americans and holds borrowers back financially.

Opponents call it an unfair perk for those who don’t need it, saying it passes a heavy cost onto taxpayers who already repaid student loans or didn’t go to college. Some worry that it will give colleges incentive to raise tuition prices higher since they know many students will get their loans canceled later.

Voices across the political spectrum have said it amounts to a form of free college. Biden campaigned on a promise to make community college free, but it failed to gain support from Congress. Critics say the new plan is an attempt to do something similar without Congress’ approval.

Is it legal?

That depends on who you ask, but the question hasn’t been taken up by a federal court.

Instead of creating a new payment plan from scratch, the Biden administration proposed changes to an existing plan. It cemented those changes by going through a negotiated rulemaking process that allows the Education Department to develop federal regulations without Congress.

It’s a process that’s commonly used by administrations from both political parties. But critics question whether the new plan goes further than the law allows.

More than 60 Republicans lawmakers urged Cardona to withdraw the plan in February, calling it “reckless, fiscally irresponsible, and blatantly illegal.”

Supporters argue that the Obama administration similarly used its authority to create a repayment plan that was more generous than any others at the time.

The Biden administration formally finalized the rule this month. Conservatives believe it’s vulnerable to a legal challenge, and some say it’s just a matter of finding a plaintiff with the legal right — or standing — to sue.

Indian Students Pursuing Masters In France To Get 5-Year Work Visa

Indian students pursuing a Master’s degree in France will now be given a five-year long-term post-study visa, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced.

Modi, who is on an official visit to France at the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron, made the announcement during his address to the Indian community at LA Seine Musicale in Paris on Thursday.

“The last time I came to France, it was decided that Indian students studying in France would be given a two-year post-study work visa. Now, it has been decided that Indian students pursuing Masters in France will be given a long-term post-study visa of five years,” he  said.

During his address, the Prime Minister also highlighted the contribution of the Indian community in France, who form a strong foundation of the India-France partnership.

Approximately 65,000 immigrants from India currently reside in France.

Around 2.7 million students enroll for French higher education, 14 per cent of whom are foreign students, according to a French embassy data.

France is especially popular for its management programmes with over 70 per cent of Indian students enrolled in them.

According to the latest official data collected post-Covid, there were around 6,000 Indian students in France in the 2021-2022 academic year.

France plans to invite 20,000 Indian students in the country by the year 2025, Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said last year.

While calling the plan “very ambitious”, Colonna said: “We want 20,000 Indian students in France by 2025. We’re starting from something close to 5,000. It is very ambitious but, between India and France, the sky’s the limit.” (IANS)

Abu Dhabi To Get First IIT Campus

One of the three memorandums signed between India and UAE includes the establishment of the first Indian Institute of Technology Delhi campus in Abu Dhabi.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish the first Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IIT Delhi) campus in Abu Dhabi was signed on July 15. The agreement between the Ministry of Education, India, and the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK), was signed in the presence of the President of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi.

The signing ceremony was attended by Mubarak Hamad Al Mheiri, ADEK under secretary, Sunjay Sudhir, Indian Ambassador to the UAE, and Professor Rangan Banerjee, director of IIT Delhi.

Expressing his delight at the signing of the MoU, Union Education and Skill Development & Entrepreneurship Minister, Dharmendra Pradhan stated that the establishment of the IIT Delhi campus in Abu Dhabi represents a new chapter in the internationalization of India’s education. He emphasized that the campus will be an example of ‌‌‌‌‌new India’s innovation and expertise, and India-UAE friendship.

Modis said, “This marks a significant stride in our educational internationalisation and is testament to India’s innovation prowess. Education is the bond that unites us, it’s the spark that ignites innovation. Together, we will leverage this power for mutual prosperity and global betterment.”

Washington D.C. Includes Sikhism in Social Studies Standards

The newly adopted social studies standards will be implemented in local schools starting from the 2024-2025 academic year. The District of Columbia State Board of Education recently made a decision to incorporate Sikhism into the new social studies curriculum in schools. With this development, Washington, D.C. becomes one of the 17 states that have incorporated accurate information about Sikhs into their social studies standards for public schools.

The decision is part of the Sikh Coalition’s multi-year campaign, which aims to provide accurate information on Sikhism to public school students across the United States. According to a release, approximately 49,800 students in the state will now have the

The new standards, voted on by the District of Columbia State Board of Education on June 21, will give approximately 49,800 students the opportunity to learn about the Sikh community. The new standards will be implemented in local schools starting from the 2024-2025 academic year. The Sikh Coalition, which worked with local education authorities on this issue, said the District of Columbia joins 17 states across the nation to include accurate information about Sikhs in their public school social studies standards. “We are thrilled that the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education has chosen to ensure that the Sikh community is represented and included in their standards,” said Harman Singh, Sikh Coalition senior education manager.

“Inclusive and accurate standards are an important first step to combat bigotry and to reduce bullying, and they benefit all students by increasing baseline cultural competency and decreasing ignorance,” Singh said. Earlier in April, the US State of Virginia voted in favour of new social studies standards to include Sikhi, or the Sikh faith, in the school curriculum for the first time ever. Sikhism is one of the largest religions in the world and the members of the community have contributed to American society for over 125 years in the fields of civil rights, politics, agriculture, engineering, and medicine.

Vivek Ramaswamy Launches Scholarship For Young Americans

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy committed $250,000 to fund a new scholarship program that aims to foster national pride among young Americans, as he believes patriotism is declining in the country. The scholarship program aims to revive national pride among the younger generation.

Highlighting the need for such a scholarship, Ramaswamy cited studies that shed light on the current state of American pride in the younger generation. According to the findings, only 16 per cent of Gen Z say they are proud to be American, while a staggering 60 per cent of teens on TikTok would rather give up their right to vo

“In honor of our son’s 1st birthday today, Apoorva & I are committing $250,000 to fund a new scholarship to foster national pride among young Americans,” he announced on Twitter. “Ten winners will be selected by a panel to receive a $25,000 scholarship for post-secondary education, entrepreneurial endeavors, or their commitment to serve in the military or law enforcement role.”

The tech mogul lamented the relatively poor state of patriotism in American youths, noting “[o]nly 16% of Gen Z says they’re proud to be American. 60% of teens on TikTok would rather give up their right to vote than their social media account. Our military suffered a 25% recruitment deficit last year. This bodes poorly for our nation.”

“As an entrepreneur, I believe in solving problems through private behavior whenever possible,” he continued. “That’s why we are funding a new scholarship to revive patriotism: this year, ten high school students will be eligible to receive a $25,000 scholarship for concisely articulating what it means to be an American in 2023. The scholarship will be administered by @IncubateDebate, a nonprofit organization that leads U.S. students to debate important issues of public importance.”

Applicants must submit a 2-minute video answering the question “what does it mean to be an American?”

Considered something of a longshot candidate, Ramaswamy’s announcement comes as he appears to be enjoying a poll surge. A recent Echelon Insights survey shows him taking 10% of the Republican primary electorate, placing him in third, behind former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Professional Certificate on Generative AI as Part of the Skills for Jobs Program Launched

Microsoft has added another kind of preparation and affirmation to the setup takes advantage of the most recent interest and fervor around man-made intelligence. As part of the organization’s Abilities for Occupations program, the new expert declaration on Generative man-made intelligence will be given to anybody who takes the free classes on artificial intelligence and breezes through the expected test.

Accessible through LinkedIn Learning, the Profession Basics in Generative artificial intelligence program offers a free seminar on generative artificial intelligence, an innovation so named in light of the fact that it can create various types of content. This type of computer based intelligence has made a colossal buzz because of such organizations as OpenAI,

Microsoft, and Google sending off their own artificial intelligence chatbots that individuals can use to clarify pressing issues, get data, and make content.

With its recently discovered prominence, artificial intelligence has been saturating more items, administrations, and associations. This shift implies that more laborers should comprehend how to utilize man-made intelligence, an acknowledgment that provoked Microsoft to devise the new testament.

In an article distributed on LinkedIn, Kate Behncken, Corporate VP for Microsoft Philanthropies, called the drive the principal proficient declaration on generative computer based intelligence. Through the five classes, individuals will begin by learning the essential ideas of artificial intelligence and afterward advance into man-made intelligence structures. Passing the appraisal then qualifies somebody for the Vocation Fundamentals testament.

The course incorporates the accompanying individual meetings:

What Is Generative man-made intelligence? – Find out about the nuts and bolts of generative computer based intelligence, including its set of experiences, famous models, how it works, moral ramifications, and substantially more.

Generative simulated intelligence: The Development of Smart Web-based Search – Investigate the qualifications between web crawlers and thinking motors, with an emphasis on learning insightful pursuit procedures in the realm of generative artificial intelligence.

Smoothing out Your Work with Microsoft Bing Visit – Figure out how to use Microsoft Bing Talk to smooth out and mechanize your work.

Morals in the Time of Generative man-made intelligence – Realize the reason why moral contemplations are a basic piece of the generative man-made intelligence creation and organization process and investigate ways of tending to these moral difficulties.

Prologue to Man-made reasoning – Get an improved on outline of the top devices in computerized reasoning.

Presently presented in English, the endorsement will be accessible in Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Worked on Chinese, and Japanese before very long. Following Microsoft’s six other Vocation Basics Proficient Authentications in the Abilities for Occupations program, the man-made intelligence classes will be opened and free through 2025.

Past the testament driven preparing in artificial intelligence, Behncken said that Microsoft will start off a tool stash for educators and coaches who give preparing to various individuals and networks. The tool stash will contain downloadable substance for mentors on the viable purposes of artificial intelligence along with a man-made intelligence course intended for teachers.

Besides, Microsoft is sending off several difficulties pointed toward encouraging learning in computer-based intelligence.

Beginning July 17, its Acquire simulated intelligence Abilities challenge is intended to show individuals man-made intelligence abilities utilizing Microsoft items. The organization will likewise collaborate with GitHub and data.org on a Generative computer based intelligence Abilities Award challenge, an open award program designed for not-for-profit associations, social undertakings, and instructive or research foundations zeroed in on executing artificial intelligence for generally underestimated populaces all over the planet.

In view of a study for Microsoft’s new Work Pattern List, 62% of the respondents said that they invest a lot of energy looking for data in a regular business day. Furthermore, however close to half said they’re stressed regarding simulated intelligence possibly supplanting their positions, 70% said that they would offload however much work as could reasonably be expected to simulated intelligence to facilitate their jobs.

IIT Bombay Among Top 150 In QS World Ranking

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Mumbai has achieved its highest-ever ranking, entering the top 150 universities worldwide in the latest QS World University Ranking. This achievement is significant as it is the first time in eight years that an Indian higher education institution has made it into the top 150, with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore being the last to do so in 2016, ranked at 147.

In this year’s rankings, IIT Bombay has made an impressive leap, climbing 23 positions to secure the 149th rank globally. However, there have been notable fluctuations in the list, including a drop of 70 positions for IISc, which now stands as the third-highest ranked Indian institution. Similarly, IIT Delhi, IIT Kanpur, and IIT Madras have also experienced declines in their rankings.

The UK-based ranking agency, QS Quacquarelli Symonds, has attributed these fluctuations partly to a revision of the assessment parameters. Three new indicators were introduced, namely sustainability, employment outcomes, and international research network, each accounting for 5% of the ranking criteria. To accommodate these new indicators, QS made adjustments to the importance given to other parameters. The weightage of academic reputation was reduced from 40% to 30%, faculty-student ratio decreased from 15% to 10%, and employer reputation increased from 10% to 15%.

The reduced emphasis on faculty-student ratio has adversely affected institutions like IISc, which has a research-focused approach with a lower teaching load compared to the IITs. IISc’s ranking has been impacted due to the decreased weightage, although QS clarifies that other factors also contributed to the fall in rankings, such as drops in indicators related to global engagement, citations per faculty, and employer reputation.

IIT Bombay, on the other hand, has demonstrated excellence in employment reputation and citation per faculty. Notably, there has been a remarkable improvement in citation per faculty, with a rise from 55.1 to 73.1. Over the past five years, IIT Bombay has enhanced its employer reputation ranking and citations per faculty rank. The institute’s research productivity received a boost during the pandemic lockdown, resulting in numerous research papers published in high-impact journals, which contributed to the improved ranking.

Subhasis Chaudhuri, Director of IIT Bombay, highlights the institute’s impressive research output, with a substantial number of academic papers and citations. The research quality is evident, with 30% of the output published in the top 10% of academic journals by impact, surpassing the global average and outperforming Indian institutions. However, the institute still needs to show progress in internationalization metrics.

Chaudhari also emphasizes the institute’s success in the employment reputation parameter, surpassing the scores of international universities. This achievement reflects IIT Bombay’s mission to produce highly skilled professionals who are now leading in global companies.

India has demonstrated a strong presence in the global university rankings this year, with 45 universities being ranked. This places India as the seventh most represented country worldwide and the third in Asia, trailing only Japan with 52 universities and China (Mainland) with 71 universities. Additionally, two Indian universities, the University of Delhi (ranked 407th) and Anna University (ranked 427th), have made their debut in the top 500 universities globally. Furthermore, four new Indian universities, namely the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES), Chitkara University, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, and the Indian Statistical Institute, have secured rankings this year.

In terms of the overall rankings, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US has claimed the top spot for the twelfth consecutive year, followed closely by the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford from the UK. Notably, the National University of Singapore (NUS) has made significant progress, moving up three positions from last year’s 11th rank to become the first Asian university to break into the top 10.

Australia has also witnessed notable advancements in its universities, with three institutions entering the top 20. The University of Melbourne, achieving a ranking of 14th (a first for any Australian institution), has advanced by 19 positions. Additionally, the University of New South Wales and the University of Sydney have both improved their rankings, moving up by 26 and 22 places, respectively, and now sharing the 19th position.

Student Loan Forgiveness Program Deemed Not Legal By Conservative SOTUS Justices

The Biden administration’s student loan debt handout program cannot proceed, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday, June 3oth, 2023.

The court decided, with a vote of 6-3, that the secretary of education cannot cancel more than $430 billion in student loan debt under federal law.

“The Secretary’s arrangement dropped generally $430 billion of government understudy loan adjusts, totally deleting the obligations of 20 million borrowers and bringing down the middle sum owed by the other 23 million from $29,400 to $13,600,” Boss Equity John Roberts composed for the larger part. ” Six States sued, contending that the Legends Act doesn’t approve the advance dropping arrangement. We concur.”

President Biden firmly couldn’t help contradicting the court’s choice and will make a declaration Friday at 3:30 p.m. enumerating new activities to safeguard understudy loan borrowers, the White House said.

In a statement, Biden stated, “I will stop at nothing to find other ways to deliver relief to hard-working middle-class families.”

According to a source at the White House, Biden intends to blame Republicans for failing to provide student loan borrowers with the relief he promised.

Biden’s understudy loan drive, which had been waiting forthcoming case, involved the central government giving up to $10,000 in the red help — and up to $20,000 for Pell Award beneficiaries — for individuals who make under $125,000 every year. It was anticipated that the program would cost the government more than $400 billion.

Biden made the phenomenal push for obligation cancelation in August 2022, and his organization acknowledged about 16 million applications before conservatives protested and the program was required to be postponed.

Republicans argued that Biden did not have the authority to forgive student loans on his own. Gauges from the Legislative Financial plan Office said Biden’s arrangement would cost citizens generally $400 billion. Conservatives were offended at the aggregate, contending the absolution would be out of line to the people who either paid their direction through school, reimbursed their credits or never went to school in any case.

Two distinct legal challenges were presented to the justices. The court ruled that two private borrowers who wanted to challenge the loan forgiveness plan lacked standing to sue in one case, Department of Education v. Brown.

Biden v. Nebraska, in which six states sued to challenge the loan forgiveness program, is the second and more significant case. Because the program would open a state-established nonprofit government corporation called MOHELA, which would face an estimated $44 million in annual fees, the court determined that Missouri at least had standing to sue.

The HEROES Act, according to Biden’s administration, gave the secretary of education authority to “waive or modify any statutory or regulatory provision applicable to the student financial assistance programs… as the secretary deems necessary in connection with a war or other military national emergency.” The law was used to enact the plan.

That argument was rejected by the majority of the court. The position to ‘change’ rules and guidelines permits the Secretary to make unassuming changes and increases to existing guidelines,” Roberts expressed, “not change them.”

Roberts proceeded to say the Branch of Training’s “changes” to the law “made a novel and in a general sense different credit pardoning program” than what Congress expected in the Legends Act. This program successfully conceded advance absolution “to virtually every borrower in the country,” Roberts said.

The chief justice wrote, “The Secretary’s comprehensive debt cancelation plan cannot fairly be called a waiver because it not only nullifies existing provisions, but also significantly augments and expands them.” It can’t be just a change because it’s “effectively the introduction of a whole new regime.” It also can’t be a combination of the two because when the Secretary wants to add to existing law, the fact that he’s “waived” some provisions doesn’t give him a free pass to avoid the limitations of the power to “modify.”

“That language cannot authorize the kind of extensive rewriting of the statute that has been done here, regardless of how broad the meaning of “waive or modify” may be.”

The three liberal justices on the court disagreed. 43 million Americans will no longer be eligible for loan forgiveness as a result of the majority’s decision, which overrules the collective judgment of the Legislative and Executive branches. “With respect, I respectfully disapprove of that decision,” wrote Justice Elena Kagan.

In the event of a ruling in the administration’s favor, Biden’s Education Department had already begun investigating alternate methods for providing handouts.

Conservatives disclosed their own arrangement to address understudy loans and high school costs in June, presenting a progression of five bills. The arrangement from Senate conservatives upholds programs pointed toward ensuring understudies grasp the genuine expense of school and furthermore stop credits for programs that don’t bring about compensations that are sufficiently high to legitimize those advances.

“This would forestall a portion of the most horrendously terrible instances of understudies being taken advantage of for benefit. It would drive schools to cut down cost and to vie for understudies. What an idea,” said Alabama senator Tommy Tuberville, said of the bill. ” Additionally, it would prevent students from becoming entangled in debt they will never be able to repay.”

Supreme Court Decision On Affirmative Action Matters To You?

Microsoft has added another kind of preparing and affirmation to setup takes advantage of the most recent interest and fervor around man-made intelligence. Part of the organization’s Abilities for Occupations program, the new expert declaration on Generative man-made intelligence will be given to anybody who takes the free classes on artificial intelligence and breezes through the expected test.

Accessible through LinkedIn Learning, the Profession Basics in Generative artificial intelligence program offers a free seminar on generative artificial intelligence, an innovation so named in light of the fact that it can create various types of content. This type of computer based intelligence has made a colossal buzz because of such organizations as OpenAI, Microsoft, and Google sending off their own artificial intelligence chatbots that individuals can use to clarify pressing issues, get data, and make content.

With its recently discovered prominence, artificial intelligence has been saturating more items, administrations, and associations. This shift implies that more laborers should comprehend how to utilize man-made intelligence, an acknowledgment that provoked Microsoft to devise the new testament.

In an article distributed on LinkedIn, Kate Behncken, Corporate VP for Microsoft Philanthropies, called the drive the principal proficient declaration on generative computer based intelligence. Through the five classes, individuals will begin by learning the essential ideas of artificial intelligence and afterward advance into man-made intelligence structures. Passing the appraisal then qualifies somebody for the Vocation Fundamentals testament.

The course incorporates the accompanying individual meetings:

What Is Generative man-made intelligence? – Find out about the nuts and bolts of generative computer based intelligence, including its set of experiences, famous models, how it works, moral ramifications, and substantially more.

Generative simulated intelligence: The Development of Smart Web-based Search – Investigate the qualifications between web crawlers and thinking motors, with an emphasis on learning insightful pursuit procedures in the realm of generative artificial intelligence.

Smoothing out Your Work with Microsoft Bing Visit – Figure out how to use Microsoft Bing Talk to smooth out and mechanize your work.

Morals in the Time of Generative man-made intelligence – Realize the reason why moral contemplations are a basic piece of the generative man-made intelligence creation and organization process and investigate ways of tending to these moral difficulties.

Prologue to Man-made reasoning – Get an improved on outline of the top devices in computerized reasoning.

Presently presented in English, the endorsement will be accessible in Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Worked on Chinese, and Japanese before very long. Following Microsoft’s six other Vocation Basics Proficient Authentications in the Abilities for Occupations program, the man-made intelligence classes will be opened and free through 2025.

Past the testament driven preparing in artificial intelligence, Behncken said that Microsoft will start off a tool stash for educators and coaches who give preparing to various individuals and networks. The tool stash will contain downloadable substance for mentors on the viable purposes of artificial intelligence along with a man-made intelligence course intended for teachers.

Besides, Microsoft is sending off several difficulties pointed toward encouraging learning in computer based intelligence.

Beginning July 17, its Acquire simulated intelligence Abilities challenge is intended to show individuals man-made intelligence abilities utilizing Microsoft items. The organization will likewise collaborate with GitHub and data.org on a Generative computer based intelligence Abilities Award challenge, an open award program designed for not-for-profit associations, social undertakings, and instructive or research foundations zeroed in on executing artificial intelligence for generally underestimated populaces all over the planet.

In view of a study for Microsoft’s new Work Pattern List, 62% of the respondents said that they invest a lot of energy looking for data in a regular business day. Furthermore, however close to half said they’re stressed regarding simulated intelligence possibly supplanting their positions, 70% said that they would offload however much work as could reasonably be expected to simulated intelligence to facilitate their jobs.

Without race in the confirmations cycle, Kelly Kill, an associate teacher at Vanderbilt College who concentrates on governmental policy regarding minorities in society, hopes to see universities increment designated enrollment, grow monetary guide including free-school programs, and go test-discretionary, with an end goal to keep up with their ethnic and racial variety.

Yet, she says, “we have nothing that functions as actually at creating and improving racial variety as race-cognizant governmental policy regarding minorities in society. We have north of 20 years of information and examination on that.”

Senate GOP Introduces “Lowering Education Costs and Debt Act”

Senate Republicans have announced their own plan to address student debt, which was introduced as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on President Biden’s student debt relief program. The GOP’s “Lowering Education Costs and Debt Act” comprises five bills aimed at tackling the underlying causes of the student debt crisis, including rising tuition fees and students taking out loans they cannot afford. The package was initiated by Senators Bill Cassidy, Chuck Grassley, John Cornyn, Tommy Tuberville, and Tim Scott.

Two of the package’s bills deal specifically with how colleges provide information to prospective students. The “College Transparency Act” would reform the way colleges report on outcomes of their graduates to provide more accurate and useful information for prospective students. On the other hand, the “Understanding the True Cost of College Act” would require colleges to use a standardized format for financial aid letters, including a breakdown of the aid offered, so that students can compare offers more easily.

The remaining three bills in the package concern student loans and look at improving the information provided to borrowers and limiting some forms of borrowing. The “Informed Student Borrower Act” requires individuals to acknowledge receipt of student loan entrance materials, and the materials must include information about loan repayment periods, monthly payment amounts, and potential earnings for graduates of specific programs. This information will be given to students annually.

One of the remaining bills in the package aims to simplify the nine different student loan repayment options available. The proposal cuts that number down to two, leaving the 10-year standard repayment plan in place and modifying the REPAYE repayment plan. The latter provides loan forgiveness to students with low balances and low incomes.

Undergraduate or graduate programs that have not been shown to lead to higher earning potential than high school graduates or bachelor’s degree holders will be ineligible for loans under the bill. The final proposal in the package aims to put pressure on graduate schools to reduce costs, which account for almost half of all student loan debt taken out each year. If passed, this legislation would end Graduate PLUS loans, a type of loan that has been left unrestricted since 2006 and that Republicans consider “inflationary.”

Sen. Cassidy remarked that “our federal higher education financing system contributes more to the problem than the solution. Colleges and universities using the availability of federal loans to increase their tuitions have left too many students drowning in debt without a path for success. Unlike President Biden’s student loan schemes, this plan addresses the root causes of the student debt crisis. It puts downward pressure on tuition and empowers students to make the educational decisions that put them on track to academically and financially succeed.”

Although Republicans do not control the Senate, they have a chance of winning approval for the bill if it gains the support of centrist Democrats, including Sen. Joe Manchin. Manchin recently joined with other senators, including Jon Tester and Kyrsten Sinema, in a vote to overturn President Biden’s student debt relief plan, which was vetoed by the White House. The Republican package was released ahead of a possible Supreme Court decision on the legality of Biden’s student debt relief program, providing the GOP with a plan to present should the high court strike down the president’s initiative.

Overall, the GOP’s Lowering Education Costs and Debt Act represents one approach to addressing student debt and the growing student loan crisis. With rising tuition costs and student debt levels that have reached unsustainable levels, addressing the root causes of the problem is critical to helping students cope with the costs of higher education and providing them with the resources necessary to succeed academically and financially. Whether the bill gains the support needed to become law remains to be seen, but the issue of student debt, and how it is addressed, will remain a key concern for lawmakers and students alike.

India’s IIT Graduates in High Demand Globally

A significant portion, one-third, of graduates from India’s esteemed engineering institutions, specifically the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), choose to move abroad. A substantial 65% of these highly-skilled individuals make up the migrants bound for the United States, as revealed in a working paper (pdf) by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

A striking statistic shows that 90% of the top performers in the annual joint entrance examination for IITs and other renowned engineering colleges have migrated. Furthermore, 36% of the top 1,000 scorers have followed suit, according to the paper released this month.

Many IIT graduates have become leading executives and CEOs in the US. The majority of these immigrants initially move to the US as students and later join the workforce. The NBER paper discovered that “83% of such immigrants pursue a Master’s degree or a doctorate.”

The report highlights the role of elite universities in shaping migration outcomes, stating, “…through a combination of signaling and network effects, elite universities in source countries play a key role in shaping migration outcomes, both in terms of the overall propensity and the particular migration destination.”

There are 23 IITs spread across India, with acceptance rates at many of these prestigious institutions being lower than those of Ivy League colleges. This is especially true for the most sought-after IITs at Kharagpur, Mumbai, Kanpur, Chennai, and Delhi. In 2023 alone, a staggering 189,744 candidates registered for the JEE, competing for a mere 16,598 seats.

Highly skilled Indians are in high demand across global economies

The NBER report highlights the US graduate program as a crucial migration pathway to attract the “best and brightest.”

In a similar vein, the UK’s High Potential Individual visa route allows graduates from the top 50 non-UK universities, including the IITs, to live and work in the country for a minimum of two years. For those with doctoral qualifications, the work visa extends to at least three years.

The report also mentions that recent IIT graduates seeking to move abroad benefit from a network of accomplished alumni and faculty members already settled overseas. Some of these connections even grant access to specific programs where they hold sway over admissions or hiring decisions.

The intriguing example of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) is worth noting

In 2012, this century-old institution, also India’s first central university, was granted IIT status. Interestingly, this elevation took place without any alterations to the staff, curriculum, or admission system at the Varanasi-based institute in Uttar Pradesh.

The NBER report examined 1,956 BHU students who graduated with BTech, BPharm, MTech, or integrated dual degrees between 2005 and 2015. The study found a remarkable 540% increase in migration probability among graduates following the IIT status designation.

The report observed that “…the quality of education/human capital acquired by the students in the cohorts before and after the change remained constant, while only the name of the university on the degree received differed.”

50 New Medical Colleges Approved In India, Boosting MBBS Seats to Over 1.07 Lakh Nationwide

The National Medical Commission (NMC) has approved 50 new medical colleges, resulting in the addition of 8,195 MBBS seats. The total count of MBBS seats in India now exceeds 1,07,658. However, concerns have been raised regarding the de-recognition of medical colleges due to non-compliance. According to official sources, 20 out of the 50 colleges who faced de-recognition threats have lodged appeals with the NMC. In addition, 102 medical colleges have received show cause notices for non-compliance, and six colleges have lodged an appeal with the health ministry. Some of these colleges are located in states including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, and others. “The medical seats in these colleges are reduced from that total count pending inquiry,” the sources added.

The 50 newly approved medical colleges are located in various states including Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Nagaland, Assam, Haryana, Gujarat, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh. The government considers this a significant increase in the number of medical colleges in the country since 2014.

The addition of new medical colleges will help in addressing the shortage of medical professionals in India. According to a report by the World Health Organization, India is short of 6,00,000 doctors and an equal number of nurses. With the approval of these new colleges, the Indian health system can take a progressive step towards addressing this shortfall. “This is an important achievement for the country, which has for long been struggling with a shortage of staff in the healthcare sector,” said a spokesperson.

The approval of 50 new medical colleges will significantly increase the number of MBBS seats available in the country. However, compliance issues remain a concern, and the authorities are taking action to ensure that medical colleges adhere to the required standards.

End Of The Student Loan Pause Is Imminent

The student loan pause has been in place since March 2020, initially enacted by former President Trump using emergency authority in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This was later solidified through legislation passed by Congress. The moratorium halted payments and interest on government-held federal student loans and ceased collection efforts against defaulting borrowers.

Initially planned for six months, the pause was extended by the Trump administration as the pandemic persisted. Upon taking office, President Biden continued this trend with several short-term extensions. Biden’s latest extension is connected to the Supreme Court legal battle over his separate student loan forgiveness plan.

In the recent bipartisan bill to raise the debt ceiling, Biden succeeded in maintaining his primary student debt relief initiatives, such as his loan forgiveness plan. However, during negotiations with congressional Republicans, he agreed to set the end of the student loan pause for this summer. Payments are now scheduled to recommence after August. Given the new legislation, it is improbable that Biden will be able to extend the student loan pause beyond that, unless a new national emergency arises.

Significant Changes in Student Loan Servicing

As borrowers prepare to resume repayments, they will encounter one of the most substantial changes in the student loan landscape: student loan servicing. Loan servicers are contractors who manage borrower accounts on behalf of the Department of Education.

Over the past three years, the student loan servicing sector has experienced significant upheaval. Several contracted Department of Education servicers have exited the Federal Student Aid system, and others have stepped in to manage those accounts. A recent report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reveals that more than 40% of borrowers will have a different loan servicer compared to before the student loan pause was implemented.

Major changes include FedLoan Servicing’s departure, with accounts being transferred to EdFinancial, MOHELA, and other loan servicers. Navient also transferred its Department of Education accounts to Aidvantage, while Great Lakes Higher Education has been moving its department portfolio to Nelnet.

Student loan servicers fulfill crucial roles such as accepting payments, reviewing repayment plan requests, processing forms and paperwork, and addressing borrowers’ questions. Advocates have cautioned that due to the alterations in loan servicing and financial constraints, the Department of Education’s student loan servicing might struggle to handle the pressure of millions of borrowers resuming repayments simultaneously.

Biden’s Emerging Student Loan Repayment Plan

The Biden administration is currently working on a new income-based student loan repayment plan (essentially revamping an existing income-driven repayment plan). The latest proposal suggests that this plan could decrease some borrowers’ monthly payments by 50% or more and expedite student loan forgiveness.

However, the plan is not yet finalized and won’t be fully accessible when payments restart later this summer. The Department of Education is expected to release updated proposed regulations in the coming months and may begin implementing certain aspects of the plan later this year or in 2024. This would offer borrowers a potential new path to more affordable payments after the student loan pause concludes. As the new plan is introduced, some existing income-driven plans might be phased out, potentially causing confusion among borrowers.

Account Adjustment Potentially Leading to Student Loan Forgiveness This Summer

While President Biden’s flagship student loan forgiveness plan (which can eliminate up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt) awaits a Supreme Court decision, another significant debt relief program is advancing.

The IDR Account Adjustment will enable the Department of Education to credit borrowers with previous loan periods towards their 20- or 25-year student loan forgiveness term under income-driven repayment plans. Borrowers with government-held federal student loans can automatically receive these benefits, even if they aren’t currently enrolled in an IDR plan.

Borrowers who accumulate enough credit to meet the threshold for student loan forgiveness under IDR programs will be eligible for loan discharge. The department anticipates beginning loan balance discharges by August, coinciding with the resumption of repayments. As a result, some borrowers who were expecting to make payments might not have to.

Other borrowers who obtain retroactive IDR credit but fall short of the forgiveness threshold will have their accounts updated sometime next year. These borrowers should then consider switching to or continuing with an IDR plan to make ongoing progress.

New Student Loan Forgiveness Regulations

New student loan forgiveness regulations established by the Biden administration will take effect on July 1. These regulations will influence almost every major federal student loan forgiveness program.

The new rules will solidify some recent temporary flexibilities for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, easing the definitions of qualifying payments and qualifying PSLF employment, enabling more borrowers to receive PSLF credit and ultimately, loan forgiveness.

Additionally, new regulations will expand access and relief and simplify the application process for other student loan forgiveness programs, such as the Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) discharge program and Borrower Defense to Repayment. Unlike Biden’s new student loan repayment plan, which is still being finalized, these regulatory changes are essentially complete and should be in effect when borrowers return to repayment.

Biden’s New Repayment Plan, Loan Servicing Changes, and Forthcoming Forgiveness Regulations

The suspension of student loan payments is quickly approaching its end, and it is highly unlikely that President Joe Biden will grant another extension. This means that over 40 million borrowers will have to resume repayments after more than three years – a truly unparalleled situation.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that the student loan environment has undergone significant changes since before the pause, affecting various aspects such as loan servicing, repayment, and forgiveness programs. Advocacy groups for borrowers are worried that these substantial shifts, even if well-intentioned, may lead to confusion and mistakes, ultimately resulting in an increase in defaults.

US Missions In India host Student Visa Day

The US Mission in India held its seventh annual Student Visa Day nationwide on June 7. Consular Officers from New Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai conducted interviews with nearly 3,500 Indian student visa applicants, a news release noted.

“Student Visa Day recognizes the enduring educational connections between the United States and India,” the embassy said adding that it acknowledges the significant contribution of Indian students to the U.S. academic landscape. With over 200,000 Indian students currently enrolled in U.S. academic institutions, they constitute more than 20 per cent of the total international student population in the United States.

Congratulating the visa recipients, Ambassador Eric Garcetti said, “I first came to India as a young student, and I’ve seen in my own life how transformative these experiences can be.”

“Student exchange is at the heart of U.S.-India relations, and with good reason.  A U.S. education provides students with a world-class education and access to a global network of knowledge, laying the foundation for a lifetime of understanding.  That’s why we are here today, to encourage these opportunities for as many Indian students as possible,” he added.

“Last year, a record-breaking 125,000 Indians were issued student visas, which is more than were issued to any other nationality.  One out of every five student visas were issued in India last year. This year, we will interview more students than ever before.” remarked Brendan Mullarkey, the acting Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs in India.

Student Loan Repayments Set to Resume with Potential Debt Forgiveness, New Repayment Plan, and Loan Servicer Changes

Following a hiatus of over three years, federal student loan payments are set to resume in the coming months. The recent debt ceiling agreement, signed into law by President Joe Biden, includes a clause that effectively ends the suspension of federal student loan repayments and may make it more difficult for the U.S. Department of Education to prolong the pause. Consequently, around 40 million Americans carrying education debt can expect their next payment due in September.

During the pandemic, the Biden administration has been actively revamping the federal student loan system. As borrowers return to repayment, they may encounter several modifications either already implemented or in the pipeline. Here are three notable changes:

Potential lower payments due to forgiveness

In August, President Biden introduced a groundbreaking proposal to eliminate $10,000 in student debt for tens of millions of Americans, or up to $20,000 for those who received a Pell Grant during their college years. However, legal challenges led to the closure of the application portal within a month.

The Supreme Court is currently reviewing two lawsuits against the plan, with a ruling expected by the end of the month. If approved, around 14 million individuals, or one-third of federal student loan borrowers, would have their entire balances forgiven, according to higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz.

These borrowers “likely won’t have to make a student loan payment again,” he said. For those with remaining balances, the Education Department plans to “re-amortize” their debts, recalculating monthly payments based on the reduced amount and remaining repayment timeline.

A new income-driven repayment option

The Biden administration is developing a more affordable repayment plan for student loan borrowers. This new program, called the Revised Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan, would require borrowers to contribute 5% of their discretionary income toward undergraduate loans, instead of the current 10%.

According to Kantrowitz, this revamped plan could significantly reduce monthly payments for many borrowers. The payment plan is expected to become available by July 2024, but it may be implemented earlier if circumstances permit.

A new servicer handling loans

During the pandemic, several prominent federal student loan servicers, including Navient, Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (also known as FedLoan), and Granite State, announced they would no longer manage these loans. Consequently, around 16 million borrowers will likely have a different company handling their loans when payments resume.

Kantrowitz warned that “whenever there is a change of loan servicer, there can be problems transferring borrower data.” Borrowers should be prepared for potential glitches and will receive multiple notices about the change in lender, according to Scott Buchanan, executive director of the Student Loan Servicing Alliance. If a payment is mistakenly sent to the old servicer, it should be forwarded to the new one.

Canadian Universities Now Accept TOEFL iBT Scores

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) announced on May 30, 2023, that the TOEFL iBT test has been approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for use in Canada’s Student Direct Stream (SDS). Students can start sending their TOEFL iBT scores beginning August 10, 2023. “This is available to legal residents in Antigua and Barbuda; Brazil; China; Colombia; Costa Rica; India; Morocco; Pakistan; Peru; Philippines; Senegal; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Trinidad and Tobago; and Vietnam,” the statement by ETS read.

The announcement comes after the ETS in April 2023 announced new changes to the test format. According to the press statement, SDS is an expedited study permit processing program for international students from 14 countries who seek to enrol in Canada’s postsecondary designated learning institutions. Earlier, only an English-language testing option was authorized for the SDS route. The expansion will now let the test takers choose a test that best suits them.

Rohit Sharma, senior vice president of Global Higher Education and Workskills at ETS, said, “We are thrilled to be unlocking more opportunities for students to access one of the world’s most desirable study abroad destinations.”

“Not only will the addition of TOEFL benefit the hundreds of thousands of students who take advantage of the SDS route each year, but institutions can feel confident knowing that they can access a wider pool of applicants who can demonstrate their skills with the premier test of English-language proficiency,” Sharma added.

TOEFL iBT is accepted by all Canadian universities. The announcement comes after the ETS in April 2023 announced new changes to the test format, introducing shortened duration, simplified registration and increased score transparency. The test score is accepted by over 12,000 institutions from over 160 countries worldwide for admissions.

Dev Shah Wins 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee Title

Dev Shah, a 14-year-old Floridian teenager has emerged as the champion of the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee held in the United States. A student hailing from Largo, Dev Shah, successfully spelled the word “psammophile” to secure his victory in the 95th edition of the national competition, along with a $50,000 (£40,000) cash prize.

Another 14-year-old, Charlotte Walsh from Arlington, Virginia, was named the runner-up after she misspelled the word “daviely” as “daevilick.” A psammophile refers to an organism that thrives in sandy environments.

After advancing through regional competitions, America’s top student spellers competed Thursday for cash prizes and academic fame. More than 200 students spelled their way through regional spelling bees to advance, and students competing represent all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The final round featured 11 contestants, shortlisted from a staggering 11 million participants in various spelling contests, as reported by the organizers. Dev expressed his disbelief upon winning, stating, “It’s surreal… my legs are still shaking.” His family joined him on stage to celebrate his achievement, with his mother expressing her pride in him.

Dev had previously participated in the 2019 and 2021 editions of the competition, finishing tied for 51st and 76th place, respectively. En route to the final, he correctly spelled challenging words such as bathypitotmeter, schistorrhachis, and rommack. Additionally, he answered a question accurately, identifying a magician as someone most likely to practice legerdemain.

Meanwhile, Charlotte’s journey to the finals involved correctly spelling words like akuammine, sorge, and collembolous. The final event took place in National Harbor, Maryland. The tradition of the national spelling bee dates back to its inception in 1925.

Here’s a look at tonight’s finalists.

Dhruv Subramanian is a 12-year-old seventh-grader from San Ramon, Calif., who loves music. He plays guitar for the school’s rock band and is active in orchestra and jazz band at school. And, of course, he is an excellent speller, having won the NSF Junior Spelling Bee National Champion in 2019 and being named Alameda County Champion in 2020. He’s in the top 10 in major national spelling bees.

Shradha Rachamreddy is learning the classical Indian dance Bharatanatyam in between spelling bees. She’s 13 and in seventh grade. She’s from the BASIS Independent Silicon Valley Upper School and previously competed in 2019 and 2022 spelling bees.

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Vikrant Chintanaboina has been spelling competitively since second grade. He’s 14 and in the eighth grade at Discovery Charter School-Falcon campus in California. In his spare time, he enjoys time outdoors and playing video games with his brother Ashvik.

Arth Dalsania is 14 and in eighth grade at the Thousand Oaks California Camarillo Academy of Progressive Education. He loves playing violin , tennis and chess. He wants to be an astrophysicist and solve the world’s problems with science.

Dev Shah attends Largo, Florida’s Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School and has many interests besides spelling. He plays cello, loves learning and, in his free time, calls friends and solves math problems with them. He likes historical fiction movies and reading historical fiction books.

Aryan Khedkar goes to Baker Middle School in Waterford, Mich. Reading, writing, solving math problems and singing are favorite pastimes. He plays bass clarinet in his school band and likes solving Rubik’s Cube patterns.

Sarah Fernandes is an 11-year-old fifth-grader at St. Stephen the Martyr Catholic School in Omaha. She has played piano since she was 4, including at Carnegie Hall. She’s won several competitions and played solo with a professional orchestra. She loves making digital art, reading and math.

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Pranav Anandh is a 14-year-old Morton, Penn., student at Garnet Middle School who is passionate about robotics and science. He represented the United States in the World Robotics Olympiad in 2021-22.

Tarini Nandakumar is a 12-year-old sixth-grader from Austin, Texas’ Challenger School — Avery Ranch. Her many hobbies include reading, singing, dancing, building with LEGO and playing with her pets, Simba and Beau.

Surya Kapu is from Salt Lake City’s American Preparatory Academy-Draper 3. He’s a black belt in tae kwon do and likes playing the saxophone, chess and basketball. He’s enjoyed spelling bees from an early age and is excited about participating this year.

Charlotte Walsh is from Merrifield, Virginia’s Compass Homeschool Enrichment. She’s testing for her black belt in tae kwon do after working toward it since she was 6 and plans to pursue either astrophysics or neuroscience when she grows up. She loves listening to music.

Republicans Overturn Biden’s $20,000 Student Debt Relief Plan

The House Republicans have succeeded in passing a resolution to overturn President Biden’s student debt relief plan, which would provide up to $20,000 in loan forgiveness to borrowers. The measure, proposed by Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), seeks to terminate the pandemic-era student loan payment pause and cancel the potential relief for 40 million borrowers. The Biden plan, which is also subject to the conservative-leaning Supreme Court, could cost around $400 billion. Two Democrats, Reps. Jared Golden (Maine) and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (Wash.), joined Republicans in supporting the move.

The resolution against the program, which the White House threatens to veto, was brought under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows Congress to suspend executive actions taken by the president. This move was only recently put on the table after the Government Accountability Office said Biden’s plan was subject to the act. Even though the victory is good news for Republicans, it will be an uphill battle to pass the measure in the Senate. Democrats hold the majority in the upper chamber, although centrists, such as Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), have previously criticized Biden’s student debt relief.

The Congressional Budget Office recently said that if the measure were passed, it would reduce the deficit by around $320 billion over ten years. “This resolution is an unprecedented attempt to undercut our historic economic recovery and would deprive more than 40 million hard-working Americans of much-needed student debt relief,” the administration said in a statement.

Before the vote, a House Education and Workforce investment subcommittee held a hearing with two top Education Department officials about the Biden administration’s student loan policies. The hearing focused on all the different actions the Biden administration has taken regarding student loans, such as changing income-driven repayments and proposing a gainful employment rule.

Democrats raised concerns during the hearing that the CRA measure, if passed, would make borrowers retroactively pay back the interest for when their student loans were on pause in the past three years. Republicans say that would not happen and that the concern is overblown. “I’ve seen different legal opinions about whether it is retroactive or exactly how it would affect borrowers, but I think it is clear that it would be very disruptive and very confusing and make it challenging for borrowers to return to repayment successfully,” Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal said during the hearing.

Republicans used the time during the hearing to point out how much the debt relief would cost the American taxpayer. “The actions of the Biden administration alone have cost more than the federal government has spent on higher education over its entire pre-pandemic history, $744 billion from 1962 to 2019,” said Rep. Erin Houchin (R-Ind.).

The arguments did not stop at the hearing. During the ensuing floor debate, Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) said Republicans used “bigoted logic” in their opposition to Biden’s student loan plan. “If we legislated using the logic that you bring to this issue here today, women and Black folks wouldn’t have the right to vote because it would be unfair to those who never got to vote before them,” Frost said. “See, if we legislated using your logic that because there was an injustice, we can’t fix it because it’s unfair to those who never had it fixed, it means we would never progress on any issue in this country. Why do you bring that bigoted logic to this issue as it relates to students but not any other issue?” he added. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, responded by demanding that Frost’s words be taken down. Frost then withdrew the comment.

The measure adds another layer of attack to Biden’s student debt relief, as the plan is also under fire at the Supreme Court, where the administration awaits a ruling on the legality of the relief from the conservative-leaning court.

Biden’s plan aims to provide relief to millions of Americans who are struggling with student loan debt, which is crippling their finances. The plan is a much-needed relief for most of the students who have to pay back their loans in a time when job availability is scarce, and many are struggling to make ends meet. Many students would be able to pay off their loans faster, which would put more money in their pockets and boost the economy in return.

The Republican opposition to the debt relief is based on the fact that it will cost taxpayers a lot of money. However, the cost of not providing relief and leaving millions of Americans with mounting debt is also high, as it will hurt the economy in the long run. Furthermore, the Biden administration has said that the plan would reduce the deficit, and it would free up money for other important initiatives.

Australian Universities Ban Student Intake from Indian States Due to Surge in Fraudulent Visa Applications

Two Australian universities, Federation University in Victoria and Western Sydney University in New South Wales, have recently announced bans on students from certain Indian states, citing concerns regarding a rise in fraudulent visa applications. The Department of Home Affairs in Australia has deemed one in four applications as “fraudulent” or “non-genuine.” The universities have instructed education agents to disregard applications from states such as Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

Federation University stated that it has observed a significant increase in the proportion of visa applications being refused from some Indian regions, and it is clear that there is a trend emerging. Meanwhile, Western Sydney University mentioned that the regions within India that had been identified as presenting the highest attrition risk are Punjab, Haryana, and Gujarat, and due to the urgency of this matter, the university has decided to pause recruitment from these regions in India, effective immediately.

Several renowned educational institutions in Australia have tightened their scrutiny regarding Indian students’ applications due to concerns surrounding a considerable number of applicants who appear to have ulterior motives centered around employment prospects in Australia instead of pursuing their intended studies. Emails obtained from Victoria University, Edith Cowan University, the University of Wollongong, Torrens University, as well as agents affiliated with Southern Cross University, suggest that there has been a noticeable tightening of scrutiny on these Indian students’ applications.

In February, Edith Cowan University in Perth implemented a comprehensive prohibition on accepting applicants from the Indian states of Punjab and Haryana. Subsequently, in March, Victoria University further tightened its restrictions on student applications, extending to eight Indian states, including Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat.

Experts state that changing visa regulations and higher scrutiny on visa applications have made it more challenging for Indian students to study in Australia and, as a result, the number of Indian students has declined. According to the Australian government, the number of student visa applications from India fell from around 60,000 in financial year 2018-19 to around 42,000 in 2020. Moreover, Australia’s dependency on the Indian student market has also declined in recent years due to a rise in the number of Chinese students studying in Australia.

The Australian government’s tightened visa regulations follow the country’s concerns over the potential of foreign interference. Australian politicians have been uneasy about China’s influence over the student body in the country. Chinese students comprise the largest overseas student cohort in Australia, with more than 165,000 Chinese students enrolled in Australian schools and universities in 2019.

Australian universities are taking steps to tighten scrutiny on Indian students’ visa applications, given concerns surrounding fraudulent applications, employment prospects within the country, and a decrease in the number of Indian students studying in Australia due to changing visa regulations. The Australian government has been uneasy about Chinese influence on the student body in the country, making it more challenging for Indian students to study in the country also.

World-Renowned Health Leaders to Lead CMEs at AAP I’s 41st Convention in Philadelphia

(Philadelphia, PA: May 26, 2023)  “The 41st Annual AAPI Convention & Scientific Assembly scheduled to be held from July 6th to 9th, 2023 will feature world-renowned leaders in healthcare and academia, who are well known and are sought after around the world for their expertise and knowledge,” said Dr. Ravi Kolli, President of The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI).  “The multidisciplinary Continuing Medical Education (CME) during the convention allows specialists and primary care physicians to interact in an academic forum. The speakers at the CME will lead discussions on gaps between the current and best practices on wide-ranging topics,” he added.

It’s a well-known fact that physicians of Indian origin excel in their respective areas of work and continue to play key roles in patient care, administration, academics, and medical research. In order to cater to its diversity of medical specialties, AAPI continues to use a multi-disciplinary conference format. “The essence of AAPI is educational,” said Dr. Ravi Kolli, while describing the purpose of CME said.

“The 41st annual AAPI Convention in Philadelphia will provide physicians of Indian origin an opportunity to come together in an atmosphere of collegiality, enabling them to retrace and appreciate their common roots, culture, and bond that unites them as members of this large professional community,” said Dr. V. Ranga, Chair of AAPI BOT.

Picture : TheUNN

According to Dr. Anjana Samadder, President-Elect of AAPI, “This mission of AAPI translates into numerous CME and non-CME seminars by experts in their fields. CME will provide comprehensive and current reviews and guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of various disease states to reduce morbidity and mortality and achieve cost-effective quality care outcomes. At the end of the activity, it is expected that attendees will gain an understanding of the causation, diagnosis, and best clinical practices for the management of the diverse group of diseases discussed during this program.”

Led by Dr. Sreeni Gangasani, AAPI CME Chair and Dr. Brahma Sharma, AAPI Convention CME Chair, the CME Committee has Drs. Gunjan Shukla, Sunder Rao, and SACHIN MEHTA as members.

“As the Chair of the AAPI CME Committee, I am proud to announce that our program will be providing the highest level talks for AAPI delegates,” said Dr. Sreeni Gangasani. “Our team has worked tirelessly to curate a lineup of speakers and presentations that will provide valuable insights and information to our attendees. We understand the importance of staying up-to-date on the latest research, trends, and best practices in healthcare and beyond, which is why we have chosen speakers who are experts in their fields and who are passionate about sharing their knowledge with our delegates. We hope that our program will inspire and empower our attendees to make a positive impact in their communities and beyond.”

According to Dr. Brahma Sharma, Chair of AAPI Convention CME Chair, “CME has been a major highlight of AAPI conventions.  This year, our teams’ approach has been holistic and balanced, with sessions focusing on both old and new: bedside and bench side and usual care, in addition to personalized approach to chronic diseases which have become our nemesis today. The goal is not just to educate about current concepts of chronic disease management but also inform about emerging concepts like Genomics, Gene-editing, and Artificial Intelligence, which play a critical role in managing chronic conditions. AAPI has been fortunate to be able to tap in some of the world’s leading physician-scientists in these areas of Medicine.”

In addition, there is the popular parallel track for Life style Medicine, which touches Mind- Body side, making it a wholesome CME session, giving everyone something that they would love. I thank Dr. Ravi Kolli for giving me the opportunity to work with him and his team during the convention. I hope all these will be informative as well as enlightening CME sessions, Dr. Sharma added.

The inaugural CME session on July 6th is being led by Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Clinical Professor of Medicine and a Board Certified Hematologist and Oncologist, who will  address the delegates on “Rise of Immunotherapy in Lung Cancer.” Dr. Sujeeth R Punnam, an Interventional, Structural Cardiologist & Certified Cardiac Device Specialist in Stockton, CA will present on: “Update and Long term outcomes on Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacements.”

Dr. Prasad Chalasani, an Interventional Cardiologist at the Florida Heart Center and the Chief of Cardiology at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute; Clinical Associate Professor at Florida State University School of Medicine and at Florida Atlantic University School of Medicine will share insights on “Role of LAA Left Atrial Appendage Closure in Atrial Fibrillation.”

“Advancing Access to Care through Licensure Portability and Telemedicine” will be the topic addressed by Dr. Humayun Chaudhary, President and CEO of FSMB.  Dr. Vikas Khurana, Program Director of the Gastroenterology Fellowship Program at The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education will share his expertise on: “Inflammatory Bowel Disease in South Asian Patients.”

Chronic Disease: Non-Communicable Diseases is the theme for the CME session on July 7th. Dr. Pradeep Natarajan, Director, Preventive Cardiology MGH,  Associate Professor Harvard Medical School will lead the day’s sessions by focusing his address on: “Subclinical Atherosclerosis in South Asians: Early Detection and Management.” This will be followed by a session led by Dr. Sunder Rao, Senior Consultant at the Butler Health System MARS PA on: “Role of SGLT2 in Preventing Heart Failure.”

“Contemporary Approach in Prevention and Management of CKD” is the theme addressed by Dr. Wilcox Christopher, Chief Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Georgetown. Dr. Rajnish Mago, Clinical Assistant Professor at the
University of Pennsylvania will speak about: “Current Concepts in Management of Bipolar Depression.”

Dr. Surender Neravetla, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Ohio will provide education on: “Role of Diet/Salt in Pathogenesis of Chronic Disease.” Dr. Indranill Basu Ray, MD
Founder President of the American Academy of Yoga in Medicine will share his insights on: “Yoga/Meditation in Chronic Disease Management.”

Dr. Indira Gurubhagavatula, Associate Professor Medicine and Director Sleep Medicine at UPenn will speak about: “Sleep and Public Health Policy,” while the concluding session for the day will be led by Dr. Vemuri S. Murthy, Adjunct Faculty
at the Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Illinois College of Medicine
Chicago, Illinois, who will address the delegates on: “Update on Sudden Cardiac Arrests during COVID-19 Pandemic & Cardiac Arrest Registries, with Focus on India.”

The final day of the convention, July 9th will have “Frontier of Medicine” as the main theme. Dr. Sek Kathieresan, Director of Preventive Cardiology MGH, and Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School will lead an insightful session on: “Genomics and Gene Editing in Cardiovascular Disease.” Dr. Partho Sengupta, Professor CV Medicine at the Robertwood Johnson Medical School Rutgers University will share with the delegates on: “AI and Cardiovascular Imaging.”

“Percutaneous Mechanical Support in High-Risk PCI/ Cardiogenic Shock” is the theme addressed by Dr. Jon George, Director of Complex PCI at UPenn Hospital. Dr. BK Kishore, Academician, Innovator, and Entrepreneur, University of Utah Health and ePurines, Inc., Salt Lake City, Utah will lead the session on: “Impact of AI on Molecular Diagnosis and Therapy.”

Lifestyle Medicine Track will be the theme during the concurrent session on July 9th morning. Dr. Nina Vasan at the Department of Psychiatry, Stanford University will inaugurate the Track with her address on: “Mental Health and Social Media.” Dr. Natrajan Rangnathan, Founder and Lead Scientist will share his insights on: “Gut Biome/Dysbiosis and Chronic inflammation.”

“Personalized Diabetes Care and Glucose Device Monitoring” is the topic addressed by Dr. Bantwal Baliga, Chief Endocrinology Clinics, Georgia, and the concluding session will be led by Dr. Nori Dattatreyudu, Chair Oncology, NY Presbyterian Hospital, and will focus on: “Prevention and Precision in Cancer.”

“Giving them a platform to celebrate their accomplishments, the annual convention to be attended by nearly 1,500 physicians of Indian origin, it will also provide a forum to renew their professional commitment through continuing medical educations activities,” said Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Convenor of AAPI Convention.

“Physician leaders who will be part this convention have excelled in different specialties and subspecialties and occupy high positions as faculty members of medical schools, heads of departments, and executives of hospital staff. The AAPI Convention offers an opportunity to meet directly with these physicians who are leaders in their fields and play an integral part in the decision-making process regarding new products and services,” Dr. Raghu Lolabhattu, CEO of the Convention said.

American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) represents more than 100,000  Indian American Physicians and reflects the range of physician specialties seen in the physician community at large with 61% in Primary Care, 33% in Medical sub-specialties and 6% in surgical sub-specialties. Medical specialty representation includes pediatrics, psychiatry, anesthesiology/pain management, cardiology, family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, oncology, gastroenterology pathology, endocrinology, nephrology, rheumatology along with many other fields.

AAPI is an umbrella organization that has nearly 250 local chapters, specialty societies and alumni organizations. For over 40 years, Indian physicians have made significant contributions to health care in this country, not only practicing in inner cities, rural areas and peripheral communities but also at the top medical schools and other academic centers. Almost 12% of medical students entering US schools are of Indian origin. Headquartered in Oak Brook, Illinois, AAPI represents the interests of over 100,000 physicians, medical students, and residents of Indian heritage in the United States. It is the largest ethnic medical organization in the nation. For more details and registration for the convention, please visit:  www.aapiconvention.org and www.aapiusa.org

AAPI Leads Efforts Connecting Medical Education Boards (NREMS) In India With NBME Of USA Conducting USMLE

(Chicago, IL; May 26, 2023) India, home to one of the oldest medicinal systems in the world has made remarkable changes in medical education in the recent past. As the world is changing to meet the ever-changing needs, medical education in India is moving forward with the objective of rendering every medical graduate and postgraduate the best in the world. Several changes are being made for graduates from Indian schools to be at par and for easy mobilization around the world.

India is introducing the NEXT examination, which is the licensing examination similar to USML in the US, while the UKMLE is starting in the UK in 2024 in the place of PLAB examination.

NMC applied for WFME Recognition status, which is mandatory to apply for USMLE examination. 694 Medical schools in India with106,083 MBBs admissions a year selected from 2.1 million applicants through the UG NEET examination, one day across India in 3 hours. With the government policy of one medical college for every district to meet the Indian need,

medical education has many challenges in the transfer of knowledge and quality.

NBEMS is responsible for NEET PG Entrance Test, which is taken up by more than 200,000 students once a year. India’s Health Minister Mandaviya has said that the government of India is working to equal the number of medical UG and PG seats in 4 years: Post-graduate seats have grown from 34,000 to 64,000 in the last 8 years, the Union Health Minister said in a conference. To overcome the shortage of teachers in medical colleges, the Medical Council of India (MCI) has increased the professor-student ratio from 1:2 to 1:3 for postgraduate (PG) courses in all Medical Colleges from the 2018-19 academic session.

In this context, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) has led efforts to help streamline medical education in India to meet the global standards for medical practice around the world.

AAPI took the lead last month to bring together the leaders of National Board of Examination in Medical Science (NBEMS) India, National Board of Examination in Medical Science (NBME) USA, and the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) on April 27th at the NBME office in the nation’s capital, Washington, DC.

Dr. Lokesh Edara, BOT-Chair Elect, and Dr. Sumul N. Raval, current Treasurer of AAPI and Secretary-Elect represented AAPI at the meeting.

NBME was represented by Dr. Peter Katsufrakis; Dr. Mike Jodoin, USMLE Program; Dr. Daniel Jurich, Growth and Innovation, Overview National Board of Examinations; and, Pamela Treves, Senior Vice President of NBME’s Growth and Innovation Division.

Dr. Abhijat Sheth represented NMBE – India. FSMB was represented by Dr. Humayun Chaudhry, President and CEO of the Federation of State Medical Boards.

“Overview National Board of Examinations” was the main theme discussed during the meeting. According to Dr. Lokesh Edara, Chair-Elect of AAPI Board of Trustees, “AAPI hoped the excellence gained through long term vision, insight and hard work with both organizations and exchange of ideas and challenges will benefit the medical education system in India and help tens of thousands of medical graduates coming from India to have recognition in the US.”

He urged Dr. Sheth to increase family medicine PG seats and nationalized formative assessment tests in theory part for all post graduates and for post-graduate exit theory examination suggested computerized online test. Nationwide E-Learning systems for higher transfer of Knowledge in medical education

Dr. Raval said, “In order for us to meet the unprecedented demand and to bring up the quality of education, the Indian medical education system is changing rapidly. The meeting today was a great beginning to facilitate collaborative efforts between India and the United States.”

Dr. Sheth presented the NBEMS mission and PG NEET examination, FMGE examination and more than 50 specialties for postgraduate and super specialties courses they are conducting and graduating. He invited all the participants at the meeting to their office in New Delhi during their next visit to India. AAPI leaders invited the leadership of these regulatory groups to the AAPI annual convention in Philadelphia in July 2023 and to the AAPI Global Healthcare Summit meeting in New Delhi in January 2024.

Dr. Katsufrakis provided an update on the NBME history and current examination-system.  Dr. Katsufrakis is a board-certified Family Physician, whose professional focus has been to improve the quality of care provided to patients through effective assessment of health care professionals, and is leading the NBME to grow as an ally in helping health professionals maximize their mastery and performance.

Dr. Humayun Chaudhry, President and CEO of the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), which was founded in 1912 and represents all 70 of the nation’s state and territorial medical licensing boards, represented FSMB at the meeting. FSMB operates the Federation Credentials Verification Service and co-manages the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) with the National Board of Medical Examiners.

Michael Jodoin is the Senior Vice President for Customer and Portfolio Management at NBME. In this role, he is accountable for the strategic and operational leadership for NBME’s portfolio of products and services and the customers and stakeholders that we serve.

Daniel Jurich serves as associate vice president for the USMLE® program. In this role, he leads and supports various validity, equity, and security initiatives that enhance the quality of USMLE for students, medical educators, clinicians, and licensing authority members.

Pamela Treves is the Senior Vice President of NBME’s Growth and Innovation Division. This division supports the organization’s strategic goals and vision by providing leadership to accelerate the pace of change and innovation for our products and services – in collaboration with medical education and health care to better support learners, advance assessment, and improve the care that patients receive.

Dr. Abhijat Sheth, President, National Board of Examinations, since 2016 completed his post-graduation in Cardiothoracic Surgery from Sheth KM School of Postgraduate Medicine and Research, Ahmedabad. He extensively worked as an academician at various medical colleges in India.  He worked in SMT NHL Medical College while in UK , worked in four NHS Trust Hospitals, and as the Director of Medical Services at Apollo Hospitals International LTD, Ahmedabad in India.

Dr. Lokesh Edara, board certified in Allergy and immunology in Private practice since 1990, is a former President of the Michigan Allergy Asthma Society and former President of Calhoun County Medical Society. He serves as the President of the Association of Allergists and Immunologists from India 2001-2003. He is the Chairmen of AAPI Global Medical Education and Chairmen-Elect of AAPI Board of Trustees 2023-2024.

A board-certified neurologist and authority on brain tumors, Dr. Sumul N. Raval is one of the few neuro-oncologists in private practice in the United States. Dr. Raval is the founder and director of the David S. Zocchi Brain Tumor Center at Monmouth Medical Center – New Jersey’s first and most comprehensive facility specializing in brain tumors. He was recently elected as the Secretary of AAPI for the year, 2023-2024.

Expressing appreciation for Dr. Edara and Dr. Raval for taking the lead in facilitating interaction and dialogue between the Medical Education Boards of India and the United States, Dr. Ravi Kolli, President of AAPI said, “Since its inception over four decades ago, AAPI has been in the forefront advocating for medical school education reform and for the medical graduates from India to be treated on par with their counterparts in India. India is already leading the global pharmaceutical industry, and rebooting medical education will help India enter the league of leaders in healthcare around the world. The meeting today was a great start, and I look forward to AAPI continuing to lead such efforts in the coming years benefitting the medical fraternity.” For more information on AAPI and its many initiatives, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

No Indian University Makes It To List Of World’s Top 400 Universities

Indian universities have not been featured among the top 400 universities across the world, according to Central World University Ranking (CWUR) 2023 data that ranks global universities. The data that covers 2000 top universities and has listed 64 universities from India, 314 from China, 114 from Japan, and 332 from the United States.

The Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM-A) is the leading Indian institute to feature in the list occupying 419th position. It was followed by Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi (607th), University of Delhi (621st), IIT Kharagpur (721st), Panjab University (759th), and IIT Kanpur (823rd).

“In the global top 2000, 33 universities from India improved from last year, with 31 falling down the rankings,” CWUR said. It credited the decline to research performance, amid intensified global competition from well-funded institutions.

American universities bagged eight positions among the top ten in the world. Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, University of Chicago, and Yale University.

“The Center for World University Rankings grades universities on four factors without relying on surveys and university data submissions: education (25%), employability (25%), faculty (10%), and research (40%). This year, 62 million outcome-based data points were analyzed for the rankings,” a news release mentioned.

Expect Unexpected Late Fees As Student Loan Contracts Change

As the future of student loan forgiveness remains uncertain, borrowers may face additional challenges and changes in their journey to repay student loan debt. The U.S. Education Department (ED) has issued new servicing contracts for existing student loans as part of the Biden administration’s alterations to the student loan system.

Education Department officials stated in a release that the new contracts would ultimately benefit borrowers by encouraging improved customer service and enhancing accountability. With the restructuring, five companies will assume responsibility for student loan servicing. Four of these companies already have contracts with the Education Department, while Central Research, Inc is a newcomer to government collaboration. Some borrowers may see their loans transferred to Central Research, while others may experience transfers to different servicers.

The other companies involved are:

  • MOHELA, which took over loans from FedLoan Servicing last year.
  • Maximus Education, operating Aidvantage, and assumed some Direct student loans from Navient.
  • Nelnet, which acquired loans from Great Lakes Higher Education.
  • EdFinancial.

Although the ED suggests these changes could eventually be advantageous for borrowers, experts predict some obstacles during the transition. For example, payments might be processed late as contracts change hands, potentially leading to unexpected late fees.

In 2015, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau discovered that modifications in loan ownership resulted in lost payments, paperwork processing issues, missing records, and even late fees for borrowers. Similar problems persisted in 2022 when MOHELA took over servicing many public service loans.

Picture : Twitter

When MOHELA began acquiring contracts from FedLoan Servicing last year, the Washington Post reported over 500 complaints about incorrect payment counts and difficulties contacting customer service. MOHELA had previously acknowledged being “inundated with applications” and “trying to resolve lag times,” according to the Washington Post. Additionally, the organization faced complaints about phone wait times up to four hours and six-month processing delays on Public Service Loan Forgiveness applications, as reported by The Washington Post.

Stay Alert to Safeguard Your Credit

Student loan borrowers may find servicer changes for their loans frustrating, and these changes could continue until 2024. The Education Department has indicated that ongoing contract transitions will proceed, but new contracts will not be effective until 2025.

Thankfully, there are measures you can take to protect yourself and your credit score. Firstly, verify where to send your payments or ensure the new loan servicer has your information for direct payments. Be prepared to see a new company name associated with your loan payment. Examine your bank records to confirm that payments to your new servicer are processed promptly.

It is also wise to check your credit report in case the transition caused any alterations. Your new loan servicer’s name may appear on your credit report, and you can verify whether payments were processed on time.

You might also see your previous loan servicer and an account with a zero balance, indicating the account as “closed.” This could lower your credit score by a few points, especially if the loan has been part of your credit history for many years, as it reduces the average length of your credit history by substituting an older loan with a new one.

Nevertheless, these changes should be short-lived. By continuing to make timely payments on your other debt and maintaining your debt-to-available credit ratio below 30%, your score should recover quickly.

A Unique Walk Along The Trail

By  Prof. Jibrael Jos

Emotions cannot be captured
Feelings cannot be framed
Yet we keep on clicking
As we walk along this trail

No one can click
the same river twice
River has changed and
Nature throws a dice

Each cloud is unique
Even blue shades of sky
Trees have grown
The old grass has died

Each group on this trail
Is a bouquet of flowers
Each flower a leader
With potential and power

The universe calls them
To rise and shine
Touch the lives of some
and connect with the divine

Emotions cannot be captured
Feelings cannot be framed
Yet we keep on clicking
As we walk along this trail

The above poem and the pictures are by Jibrael Jos, who currently serves as an Associate Professor and HRDC Coordinator at Christ University in Lavasa, near Pune in Maharashtra.

His Trainings/workshops have come to be well known as “Leadership Retreats in Lavasa with Outbound Training in Lonavala.” These workshops have become popular with thousands of mentors.  Prof. Jose has led and conducted over 300 plus workshops in the recent past. Last year alone, he did 48 workshops for College Students, School and College Teachers and Principals.

Describing his style of leading such workshops that impact and help transform thousands of lives, Prof. Jose says, “I conduct Leadership Retreats here in Lavasa on a regular basis. I take every group that attends my workshops/training for a trek on Day 2, I visit the same place so many times. However, every group is different and hence the experience is unique.”

Lauding the fullest participation and openness and enthusiasm to learn by the participants who come from across the nation, Prof. Jose says, “In two days, this set of school Teachers really rose to the occasion. It was very satisfying to see the slight transformations and spark of belief to make a difference.”

Looking back to his past that has shaped his vision and outlook, Prof. Jos gives credit to Yuvodaya, “The Delhi Catholic Youth Movement inspired me to be a trainer and facilitator.”

Student Loan Forgiveness Eligibility in Three Key Areas

The Biden administration has begun implementing the IDR Account Adjustment, a significant initiative aimed at expediting student loan forgiveness for numerous borrowers. Recent guidance from the Education Department indicates that the program’s scope may be even more extensive than initially anticipated. Here’s what borrowers need to understand:

How the IDR Account Adjustment Will Lead to Student Loan Forgiveness

Picture : ABC News

Introduced last year by the Biden administration, the IDR Account Adjustment is a long-awaited solution addressing well-known issues with Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) programs. IDR encompasses various repayment plans, allowing borrowers to repay their federal student loans based on factors such as income, marital status, and family size. Payments are recalculated annually, and after 20 or 25 years (depending on the plan), any remaining balance can be completely forgiven.

Historically, IDR plans have had stringent rules. Only time spent in an IDR plan counts towards loan forgiveness, and certain actions like consolidating or failing to re-certify income when required could hinder a borrower’s progress. Investigative reports have also exposed multiple administrative issues with the programs, including loan servicers that “wrongfully steered borrowers into costly forbearances” and a system that inadequately tracked borrowers’ IDR progress.

The IDR Account Adjustment aims to rectify these past problems. This initiative will enable the Education Department to credit borrowers with time that would not typically count towards their 20- or 25-year IDR student loan forgiveness term, including most repayment periods and some non-payment periods like deferment and forbearance. Borrowers don’t even need to be currently enrolled in an IDR plan to benefit from the initiative.

Furthermore, the IDR credit can also be applied to loan forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, another program plagued by long-standing issues.

The Education Department published comprehensive new guidance last month on the IDR Account Adjustment’s implementation. The Biden administration seems to have broadened the eligible loan periods that can count towards loan forgiveness, possibly offering even more extensive relief to millions of borrowers.

Parent PLUS Loans Eligible for Credit Towards Student Loan Forgiveness

Historically, Parent PLUS loans have been excluded from many federal student loan relief programs, including IDR plans. While Parent PLUS borrowers could consolidate their loans into a federal Direct consolidation loan to qualify for the Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) plan, this is the most expensive IDR option. Under previous rules, borrowers would receive no IDR or PSLF credit before consolidating, and Parent PLUS borrowers were also excluded from the Limited PSLF Waiver.

However, recent Education Department guidance confirms that Parent PLUS loans, even unconsolidated ones, can receive credit towards loan forgiveness under the IDR Account Adjustment. Borrowers who obtain 25 years of IDR credit can achieve complete loan forgiveness, while others may speed up their progress towards eventual loan forgiveness, reducing their repayment time and saving money.

Parent PLUS borrowers may still need to consider Direct loan consolidation, as they would need to continue making payments under an IDR plan to progress towards loan discharge. The only available IDR plan for Parent PLUS borrowers is ICR, accessible only if their loans are consolidated into a Direct loan.

Recent Default Periods Can Be Credited Toward Student Loan Forgiveness

Initially, the Biden administration stated that default periods would not count towards loan forgiveness under the IDR Account Adjustment. However, updated guidance in April marked a significant change, allowing borrowers to be credited with “periods in default from March 2020 through the month they exit default,” as long as they do so before the end of the “Fresh Start” period (expected to last one year after the current student loan pause ends this summer).

For borrowers who were already in default when the student loan pause began in 2020, this extended eligibility could result in over three years of additional IDR and PSLF credit towards student loan forgiveness, provided they take the required steps to exit default and return to good standing.

Consolidation Can Accelerate Student Loan Forgiveness

The Education Department’s new guidance states that borrowers who consolidate federal student loans with varying repayment lengths will receive the maximum amount of loan forgiveness credit based on the individual loans being consolidated. For example, if one loan has 10 months of credit and another has 80 months, a Direct consolidation loan combining those two loans could receive 80 months of credit towards loan forgiveness under the IDR Account Adjustment.

What Borrowers Need to Know About Student Loan Forgiveness Under IDR Account Adjustment

The Education Department will automatically implement the IDR Account Adjustment for borrowers with government-held federal student loans, including Direct federal student loans and some FFEL-program loans administered by the department.

Borrowers with commercially-held FFEL loans and other non-Direct loans must consolidate those loans before December 31, 2023, to qualify for relief. Other borrowers may also want to consider consolidation (such as those with a mix of older and newer loans, and Parent PLUS borrowers needing access to the Income-Contingent Repayment plan). However, consolidation may have drawbacks that borrowers should consider.

The Biden administration is expected to begin discharging federal student loans under the adjustment later this year for borrowers who immediately qualify for student loan forgiveness. All other borrowers will see the benefits of the adjustment sometime in 2024.

Australian University Recognizes India-Born Alumnus

In an extraordinary demonstration of public diplomacy and relationship building, the internationally ranked University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia has named a lecture hall after an Assam-born alumnus – the late Annada Gohain, who had gone to the university in 1955 under the Colombo Plan and stayed on to complete her Master’s degree, becoming the first woman to do so from the University’s prestigious School of Chemical Engineering. Passionately interested in food technology, Annada returned to Assam after her studies and worked in the Agriculture Department of the Assam government and was closely involved with food processing. She retired as Additional Director (Agriculture) from the department. She died at the age of 81 in 2011.

Annada came from a distinguished family of educators and intellectuals in Guwahati. She, herself, played a pioneering role in establishing the food canning industry in Assam and is widely regarded as a trailblazer.

Naming the lecture hall after Annada is an extraordinary gesture. This stellar recognition is part of the university’s project of honouring women, gender equality, and multiculturalism. It reflects the university’s vision of embedding values in the pursuit of excellence in education.

The recognition is particularly interesting because, in comparative terms, the number of students going abroad for higher studies from India’s northeastern states has been relatively small. Many migrate to other cities in India for their studies, as there are few good quality educational institutions in the northeast. This has been the case for multiple reasons, especially poor connectivity, and security concerns. Much of this has now dramatically changed. It is time to establish strong and high-quality learning centres in these states. Such initiatives would radically transform the region’s landscape.

This extraordinary recognition of an Indian student also reflects the university’s strategic focus on India. The rapidly growing interest in the Group of Eight universities in Australia, such as the University of New South Wales, as a preferred destination for high-achieving students, would receive a significant boost because of initiatives of this nature, which demonstrate how universities have come to appreciate the need to remember their alumni for reasons other than to seek financial donations from them. This unique gesture of the university will stand out as an example of how relationship-building is integral to a long-term international education strategy.

Educational dimension to ties

Last month, discussions between  Australian Education Minister Jason Clare and Indian Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan further consolidated efforts at collaborative education and research. India’s New Education Policy establishes the primacy the government attaches to the role of education in achieving its developmental aspirations. Collaboration with like-minded international partners would help transform lives for the better, which is, in fact, the purpose of education.

Next month Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Sydney for the Quad Summit and would also hold bilateral discussions with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who was in New Delhi barely a month ago, reflecting the rapidly growing strategic partnership. At the bilateral meeting, education and research are likely to feature as a topic of discussion. Taking advantage of the pathbreaking research in Australian universities, especially in areas of critical interest to India, would further strengthen the bilateral framework.

Several areas come to mind, such as cyber security and critical technologies, space research, geospatial engineering, quantum computing, semiconductors and microchips, disease control and public health, climate change and sustainable development, water, and clean technology, to name a few.

India-Australia relations are only set to grow stronger. Shared concerns will only accelerate the process. But the robustness of a relationship requires that it is multi-faceted and not unidimensional. Education and research can emerge as the key vertical in this regard.

(The author is a former diplomat with a keen interest in international education. He was recently appointed to the Order of Australia. Views are personal.) Read more at: https://www.southasiamonitor.org/spotlight/australian-universitys-recognition-indian-alumnus-reflection-growing-educational-link

Shashi Tharoor Inaugurates South Asian Literary Festival In Washington

Shashi Tharoor, a member of the Parliament of India and former Under Secretary-General of the United Nations on May 5, 2023 participated in a discussion and responded to a wide range of topics including India’s digital and economic progress, UK-India relations, Britain’s colonial past in India, and ongoing global crises, while inaugurating the third annual DC South Asian Literary Festival at the Jewish Community Center.

Thanking the founders of the DC South Asian Arts Council, Manoj Singh, and Geeta Singh, for their incredible work in promoting the Arts in Maryland, Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, Aruna Miller said, “I am more excited to have an individual like Dr. Shashi Tharoor, who is here all the way from India. What an incredible orator he is – an author, and a humanitarian. He’s everything that we should all aspire to be. So, I am so honored to welcome him to the state of Maryland.”

During a 90-minute Q&A discussion, moderated by immigration attorney, Sheela Murthy, Tharoor talked about the positive influence his parents had on his life, his sisters’ support, views on Hinduism – his admiration for the teachings of Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi, and his experience in writing fiction and non-fiction books among other topics. He also answered questions from the audience.

Tharoor, who is the longest serving Member of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, said the top three areas of concern for him are the Russia-Ukraine war, China-Taiwan tension, and the India-Pakistan issue. He fears that if there is “temptation” by Russia to use nuclear weapons against the Ukrainians, and the growing China-Pakistan relationship and their coordinated attacks against India.

He noted that India is the fastest growing major economy in the world, and that it cannot to be distracted by conflicts with bordering neighbors. “I would say that the potential is just enormous,” noting India’s progress on tech horizon, such as Unified Payments Interface, mobile revolution, access to internet, and Artificial Intelligence.

According to Tharoor, “unemployment is a huge worry,” and India needs to focus on education and technical skills for youngsters. He said India can still serve as a workforce for the world given the median age of India’s population is just 29.

While recalling his May 2015 debate at Oxford Union, where he spoke about “Britain owes reparations to her former colonies,” Tharoor noted “The opportunity to actually lay a case against colonialism in Britain to a British audience, was what I thought was worth doing.”

In particular, Tharoor pointed out in the preceding 10 to15 years, British writers and historians in their books argued that colonialism was a good thing and went on to quote Neil Ferguson saying that, “India’s success in the world of globalization was entirely due to the underpinnings of the British… and Lawrence James saying the British Empire was the greatest experiments of altruism in human history.”

He said a few weeks later the debate was posted on YouTube, and it went viral. “I was astonished when Prime Minister [Modi]… actually stood up in a public forum and said that this speech was an example of the right person saying the right thing at the right place, which was for me, immensely, immensely surprising, as well as gratifying.”

According to him, his speech caused some concerns since Modi was to travel to the United Kingdom on his first ever official visit in November 2015. So, there was some nervousness on both sides “as to whether this might actually cast a blight on his visit” but the visit went well.

Tharoor said he again visited England to speak about his book in 2017, and this time he made “a fuss about the absence of an apology” from the British. “And I said, I’m not looking for reparations, but I’m looking for atonement. And they said, what’s atonement, and I said three things that Brits could be doing,” noting they should teach their kids colonial history, setup a museum to colonialism, and tender a “simple apology” on April 13, 2019. It was the Centenary of Jallianwala Bagh massacre where the British massacred 1600 unarmed protestors on the occasion of Baisakhi in Amritsar.

He reminded that the massacre was a result of nonviolent protests by innocent people against the Rowlett Act which was a “really rigorous infringement on human freedoms,” at a time when the British had promised a Dominion status for India for its support during the First World War, and eventually broke their promise. Tharoor also recalled how the British massacred 100,000 innocents in 1858, “after the so-called mutiny” including women and children in the streets of Delhi to teach Indians a lesson.

About issuing an apology, he continued, “I said, if a government or politically elected government finds it difficult, doesn’t matter. Send a minor member of the Royal family because everything was done in the name of the Crown. I had thought they might send Meghan [Markle] there…” and the audience burst into laughter.

Then, six months before the Centenary, he heard from a senior British official that a note about apology had made it through the Cabinet to the Prime Minister. Tharoor said, “I was waiting with bated breath for the 13th of April 2019… And then Prime Minister Theresa May spoke in Parliament,” adding she only expressed “regret” and not an “apology.”

To a question about India’s relationship with Britain, he said “I think that it’s getting better. It certainly had ups and downs,” while noting there are still issues on the trade front. He praised Britain for electing Rishi Sunak as its Prime Minister, and commended the recent announcement of King Charles, that India is one of the first countries he would like to visit after his Coronation. Tharoor said somebody recently asked him whether he [King Charles] will apologize, and Tharoor continued “Who knows he’s somebody who thinks enough outside the box to be able to surprise us.”

More Indian Students Go To UK Than Chinese Students

More Indian students are now proceeding to the UK for higher studies than any other country, including China according to the British High Commissioner to India, Alex Ellis . He was speaking at a public lecture on ‘India-UK Relations’, at O.P. Jindal Global University in Haryana.

“The degree of human connection between our two countries is extraordinary, yet there is potential to take the India-UK relationship to a deeper and profound level,” Ellis said stressing on the need to develop stronger people-to-people connect. “It is the human level that is more important. I’d like to get more British people coming to India to understand the reality of India.”

During his first visit to the University, the High Commissioner also addressed students of international affairs, law and other disciplines, giving them a diplomatic and strategic overview of the relationship between the world’s two important democracies.

Alluding to the trade relations between the two countries, the High Commissioner said negotiations for a free trade agreement were going on and it’s important to look at not only the economic value it provides but also the strategic value.

Speaking of the different areas of cooperation, Ellis emphasized, “Together, as nations we will try to deal with some of the biggest problems the world faces, especially climate change! We have already demonstrated how well we have cooperated in the research and production of Covishield vaccine during the pandemic.”

The High Commissioner added that India is also number one in different kinds of visas on which Indians are travelling to the UK and also referred to India becoming the third country in the world from where illegal migrants cross the British channel on boats.

Professor Dr C. Raj Kumar, founding vice chancellor, of O.P. Jindal Global University welcomed the High Commissioner. In his address he said, “Among the post-colonial relationships of the world, the India-UK relationship is one of the most defining relationships of the last 35 years. Education plays a very significant role as this relationship transcends the usual boundaries of strategy, security, trade, investment and more.”

US Consulate To Begin Student Visa Interviews In Mid May

The US Consulate in Hyderabad announced that the first batch of student visa appointments will commence from mid-May and more batches will be released in the future. This comes after Consul General Mike Hankey’s announcement in Mumbai that the US aims to increase visa interview appointments for Indian students by 30 percent this summer.

“Attention students! In mid-May, the U.S. Mission to India will open the first batch of appointments for the upcoming student visa season. Additional appointments will be released later in the season. Prepare for your appointments and stay tuned for more student visa related announcements!” the Consulate tweeted.

The US government recently announced the extension of the visa waiver scheme for in-person interviews for some students, professors, research associates, specialists, and others till December 31, 2023.

Under the programme, consular officers will be able to waive the visa interview needs for a few first-time and while renewing F, M, and academic J applicants. Those who were earlier granted any type of visa, who have never been refused a visa unless such refusal was overcome or waived, and who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility will be eligible to avail of it.

For some first-time F, M, and academic J applicants who are citizens or nationals of a nation that take part in the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP), in-person interviews can also be waived as long as they have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility and have previously visited the US using a permit obtained through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

However, the US State Department said that “Consular officers may still require an in-person interview on a case-by-case basis, taking into account local conditions. We encourage applicants to check embassy and consulate websites for more detailed information about this development, as well as current operating status and services.”

Tamil Nadu Hosts Medical Value Travel Conclave For Hospitals From 21 Countries

Tamil Nadu, India’s southernmost state, hosted a two-day medical value travel conclave on Saturday and Sunday, April 29-30th, 2023, which was inaugurated by Chief Minister M.K. Stalin. The conclave, titled “Tamil Nadu – Where the World Comes to Heal,” was aimed at bringing together accredited hospitals from Tamil Nadu with hospitals from 21 source countries. The event was jointly organized by the Tourism and Health departments.

The medical value travel sector is worth $25 billion globally and is growing rapidly. Patients from other countries come to India, either referred by hospitals or via agents. However, the sector is not very organised and needs streamlining. Around 80 representatives from hospitals listened to experts in 10 specialties, including plastic surgery, gastroenterology, cancer, and heart and lung transplant. The hospitals included those under the Ayush Ministry, and a session on holistic healing was also held.

The conclave included a B2B session where hospital representatives met each other without the interference of agents. A special secretariat would be set up to keep in touch with foreign hospitals, and meetings like this would be held annually, according to Tourism Secretary B. Chandra Mohan.

“Through this conclave, we hope to promote Tamil Nadu as a destination for medical value travel. The state has a wealth of qualified medical professionals and state-of-the-art hospitals, making it an ideal location for medical tourists,” said Mohan.

The event was attended by Ministers Ma. Subramanian, K. Ramachandran, T. M. Anbarasan, and T. Mano Thangaraj, Health Secretary P. Senthilkumar, and Director of Tourism Sandeep Nanduri, according to a press release.

In his speech, Chief Minister M.K. Stalin said, “Medical tourism can provide a significant boost to our state’s economy, and we must work together to ensure that we provide the best possible care to our patients.”

Overall, the conclave was a great success, bringing together hospitals from around the world and promoting Tamil Nadu as a destination for medical value travel. With the medical value travel sector growing rapidly, it is important to streamline the sector and provide the best possible care to patients.

Unlocking the Power of Your Senses: Enhancing Happiness, Productivity, and Relationships with Gretchen Rubin’s ‘Life in Five Senses

A decade ago, the author Gretchen Rubin embarked on a personal journey to find ways to lead a happier life. Through rigorous scientific research and testing the wisdom of the ages, she learned several ways of improving relationships, boosting energy, and other techniques that lead to a fulfilling life. However, years later, she realized she was disconnected from other people and herself. After introspection, she realized that she was treating her body as a vehicle driven by the brain rather than a means to connect with the world through the senses.

During the exploration that led to the book “Life in Five Senses,” the author discovered how the senses could help people focus on living happier, more productive lives. She found that different senses under different circumstances could bring calmness, creativity, higher awareness, energy, and more.

Mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan Honoured at MIT

Indiaspora and Agastya International Foundation celebrated esteemed mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Thursday, April 20, 2023. The day began with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil a bronze bust of Ramanujan that was donated to MIT by the Agastya International Foundation.

“Indian mathematicians have left an indelible legacy over the centuries, having developed some of the earliest mathematical concepts such as the decimal system, zero, and algebra,” said Indiaspora founder MR Rangaswami.

Indiaspora’s Executive Director, Sanjeev Joshipura, Indiaspora founder MR Rangaswami, renowned philanthropist Dr. Desh Deshpande, Padma Vibushan Dr. Vasudev Aatre,  Head of the MIT Math Department Professor Michel Goemans, Indiaspora Board Member Professor Priya Natarajan, and Indiapsora friend Professor Ranu Boppana spoke briefly in the morning session acknowledging Ramanujan’s unparalleled stature, the importance of education, vital educational experiences and supportive institutions.  There was a tour of the “South Asia and the Institute: Transformative Connections” exhibit. The campus events wrapped up with a screening of the movie The Man Who Knew Infinity, a biopic about Ramanujan’s life.

There was a reception in the evening at The Royal Sonesta Hotel for Boston area Indiaspora community leaders. The inspiring session included a fireside chat with leading CEOs Reshma Kewalramani, MD FASN, and Niren Chaudhary  and a panel with academics Priya Natarajan,  Sunil Kumar (Tufts), Tarun Khanna  and Sunand Bhattacharya.

The Tamil Nadu-born Ramanujan — who was only 32 when he died in 1920 — grew up in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, in a one-room house he shared with five other family members. He had no formal education, and developed his theorems from his own discoveries. No one in his village or his state could understand his work; thus, the young mathematician started writing to professors at various colleges in England.

Sir Francis Spring, a civil engineer who worked in Madras, is credited with discovering Ramanujan, a clerk in his office. Spring sent the young mathematician’s work to GH Hardy at Cambridge University.

“He proved more theorems in one day than many of us do in one year,” the luminary Princeton mathematician Manjul Bhargava said, during a preview of a film based on Ramanujan’s life “The Man Who Knew Infinity.”

In 2010, the Agastya Foundation donated a bust to Cambridge University to memorialize Ramanujan at his alma mater. The Agastya Foundation has also gifted a bust of Ramanujan to TIFR’s Centre for Applicable Mathematics in Bangalore, and the Indian Institute of Technology – Madras, with the aim of inspiring and sparking creativity amongst young Indians.

Radha Pyati Named Chancellor Of Penn State Berks

Indian-American academician Radha Pyati has been named the next chancellor and dean of Penn State Berks, effective July 1, 2023. She will succeed former chancellor George Grant Jr.,according to Penn State Press.

An award-winning environmentalist and a leader in STEM education, Pyati is presently dean of the college of sciences and mathematics at West Chester University (WCU). Under her leadership, the College of Sciences and Mathematics raised over US$3.4 mn for scholarships, faculty support and STEM programming, and planned the US$130 mn Science and Engineering Complex.

Lauding Dr Pyati’s appointment, Kelly Austen, vice president for Commonwealth Campuses and executive chancellor of Penn State, said “She has a proven track record of success as an educator and academic leader. The faculty, staff and students at Penn State Berks will benefit from her experienced leadership. She deeply understands the essential mission of our Commonwealth Campuses, and shares these values of the University — all have which have made her the right person to lead Penn State Berks.”

Pyati has championed efforts to increase the diversity of faculty and students in her college and led several major environmental research projects in the Lower St. Johns River Basin.

Reacting to the news, Pyati commented, “I met some wonderful students, faculty and staff during my visit, and I can’t wait to work with them. Elevating student outcomes and the growth of Penn State Berks is an inspiring mission to me.”

Before WCU, Pyati worked at the University of Colorado, and the University of North Florida. Most recently, she was a Fulbright Specialist at the University of ĐàNẵng in Vietnam. An accomplished researcher and City of Jacksonville Environmental Protections Board Award of Merit recipient, she has authored many papers, book chapters, and reports in chemistry and environmental science and participated in over thirty research projects as a principal investigator.

India’s Workforce Is Weighed Down By People With Worthless College Degrees

India’s education system is failing the country’s workforce, with scores of people graduating from small private colleges lacking the skills required to secure employment. While some of India’s tech industry leaders come from top colleges, such as Sundar Pichai of Alphabet and Satya Nadella of Microsoft, lesser-known private institutes frequently have incompetent teachers, outdated curricula, and no opportunities for on-the-job training. This has resulted in a glut of incompetent workers within the workforce, with a study by employee assessment firm Wheebox revealing that half of all future graduates in India are expected to be unemployable.

Despite the lack of opportunities that many colleges provide, Bloomberg’s interviews with youths in India revealed several reasons for spending money on higher education, such as increasing their economic status to attract better suitors for marriage and securing government employment. However, the pursuit of higher education at private universities has also led to fraud, with one such institution investigated by the Indian government for selling fake degrees.

Manav Bharti University in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh sold up to 36,000 degrees since its founding in 2009, with qualifications being offered for as low as $1,362. Such fraudulent behavior highlights a need for greater regulation and accreditation of educational institutions in India. The country’s unemployment rate is 7.45% as of February, according to the Indian news outlet, The Economic Times.

The failing education system is particularly concerning as India’s population is set to overtake China’s by mid-2023, with the United Nations Population Fund’s “State of World Population Report” estimating India’s population will reach 1.4286 billion, which is 2.9 million more than China’s 1.4257 billion people. Anil Sadgopal, a former dean of education at Delhi University, has stated that “calling such so-called degrees as being worthless would be by far an understatement.” He told that Bloomberg,”When millions of young people are rendered unemployable every year, the entire society becomes unstable.”

The education system failures are particularly evident in small private colleges that lack adequate resources to provide quality courses, leading to an imbalance in employment opportunities between those who have attended top-tier schools and those who have attended lower-tier schools that may lack resources or accreditation. While there is great potential in India’s youth, particularly in the tech industry, it is a need of the hour to restructure and regulate the country’s higher education system to ensure that all young people have access to high-quality education that prepares them for the workforce.

Inadequate training and poor educational opportunities for the majority of Indian college students mean that few graduates are equipped with the skills or critical thinking abilities necessary for the modern workplace, particularly in fields such as technology, engineering, and business. Such issues have led to the creation and implementation of new regulations, such as the National Education Policy, designed to revamp India’s education system and reduce the number of unemployable college graduates.

In conclusion, India’s higher education system is failing its youth, and the consequences are dire. Millions of young people are graduating from inadequate programs with limited prospects for employment, which threatens to create instability throughout society. Moreover, the fraudulent practices occurring by some educational institutions have further discredited India’s education system. Therefore, it is essential that the government takes the necessary steps to revamp and regulate the education system to ensure quality education for all. Such initiatives will help India to fully leverage its greatest asset, its youth, to drive the country’s growing economy and social development.

Indian- Origin Academicians Named To AAU Task Force

The task force was created in coordination with the Biden administration’s U.S.-India initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET), which seeks to grow technological and industrial collaboration between the two nations.

A group of renowned Indian-origin academicians were appointed with varying roles to the newly created task force of The Association of American Universities (AAU), that aims to expand research and higher education partnerships between the United States and India.

The co-chairs of the AAU Task Force include Pennsylvania State University president Neeli Bendapudi, University of California San Diego chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla, University at Buffalo president Satish K. Tripathi, and current Johns Hopkins University Provost, senior vice president for Academic Affairs Sunil Kumar, who is set to become president of Tufts University on July 1, 2023.

The task force was announced by AAU President Barbara Snyder during the launch of the U.S.-India Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology which was jointly launched by U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi in May 2022.

As per the mandate, the task force will make efforts to advance academic and research partnerships between both sides. The group of academicians are set to meet monthly to determine key focus areas for bilateral research and education cooperation, to identify existing programs that could provide blueprints for future partnerships, and to formulate strategies on how best to move forward, AAU said in a statement.

In addition to the co-chairs, several Indian-origin members from various universities were inducted into the task force. They include dean of engineering, Case Western Reserve University, Venkataramanan Balakrishnan, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, Emory University, Ravi V. Bellamkonda, vice president for research and economic development, University at Buffalo, Venu Govindaraju, chief, Division of Infectious Diseases, Johns Hopkins University, Amita Gupta, professor and Qualcomm endowed chair, to name a few.

AAU is composed of America’s leading research universities. Association’s member universities collectively help shape policy for higher education, science, and innovation; promote best practices in undergraduate and graduate education; and strengthen the contributions of leading research universities to American society.

Ascend’s A-List Includes Indian-Origin Professionals

The Ascend Foundation aims to increase recognition of pan-Asian leadership through initiatives like the 5-Point Action Agenda, the Ascend Impact Fund, and other research, education, volunteerism and advocacy efforts.

Indian-origin business leaders from diverse sectors were honoured for their resiliency and success during times of economic uncertainty by The Ascend Foundation during their A-List Award Gala at the Plaza Hotel in New York City on April 3, 2023.

The list of 30 honorees includes the chief health officer of Elevance Health Dr Shantanu Agrawal, executive leader in the workplace investing business for Fidelity Investments Sangeeta Moorjani, chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer of Deloitte, Kavitha Prabhakar, chief operating officer of Citi Anand Selvakesari, vice chair of EY Americas Consulting Raj Sharma and president and chief executive officer of Perkin Elmer Prahlad Singh.

Baltimore resident and Cambridge alumnus, Dr Agrawal is passionate about improving health outcomes and reducing disparities and serves on numerous boards and committees that deepen his commitment to advancing health, his profile reads.

India-born, Moorjani is known for approaching business strategy, fresh perspective and innovative thinking to meet the need of business. She received her bachelor of commerce degree in 1988 and her MBA in marketing in 1990, both from the University of Pune in India.

A woman in technology, and champion for social change, Prabhakar spearheaded the release of Deloitte’s DEI Transparency Report, first issued in 2020, and is credited for setting a new standard for racial, ethnic, and gender data transparency and accountability.

Having begun his career at Citi India in 1991,  Selvakesari has over 30 years of experience in consumer banking, wealth management and commercial banking, across multiple markets globally.

In his role with EY Americas Consulting, Sharma leads 25,000 consultants across the Americas service line, according to the company. He holds a Master of Science degree in Computer Information Systems from the University of Miami and a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Computer Science from the Birla Institute of Technology, India.

Singh held various leadership roles in different companies. Northeastern University alumnus, Singh earned a doctoral degree in chemistry from the University of Missouri-Columbia. His research work has resulted in several issued patents and publications in peer-reviewed journals, according to his profile.

Founded in 2005, Ascend is the first and largest global network advancing API professionals in the workplace. Ascend’s 60+ chapters partner with global organizations to cultivate and empower API talent as they rise to their full potential.

Xavier University School of Medicine Opens Veterinary School

Xavier University School of Medicine has announced the opening of Xavier University School of Veterinary Medicine. Xavier University School of Veterinary Medicine will begin with the inaugural class in Fall 2023.

The Xavier University School of Veterinary Medicine program is a four-year program for students who will receive their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. The program is divided into two phases – for the first three years (nine semesters), students will be located in Aruba completing their preclinical semesters. During the student’s final year (three semesters) in the program, they will attend clinical training at one of our internationally approved training facilities and complete the NAVLE exam to be eligible to practice in the USA.

“We are excited to announce the opening of Xavier University School of Veterinary Medicine in September 2023,” said Ravishankar Bhooplapur, President of Xavier University School of Medicine. “The mission of Xavier University School of Veterinary Medicine is to prepare veterinary physicians to practice veterinary medicine of the highest standard, and the opening of our new veterinary school will provide students with a quality veterinary education at an affordable price.”

“The curriculum for Xavier’s DVM program is an integrative approach that enables students to understand the science, gain experience in practice, and receive clinical skills instruction beginning from their first semester,” added Dr. Arun Dubey, Chief Academic Officer. “We are thrilled to welcome our first set of veterinary students in the fall!”

Students will be able to live at Xavier’s new academic campus in Aruba. This all-inclusive housing option ensures that students have a safe and supportive environment during their medical school journey.

In addition, construction is in progress for a new $70-million academic campus in Aruba that is set to open in Fall 2024. This new academic area of campus will include a theater-style auditorium, state-of-the-art classrooms and labs, research facilities, seminar rooms, a new library, study areas for individuals, small groups, and large groups, student lounges, and a walk-in clinic. Inaugural class of September 2023 will receive 50% tuition scholarships.

US Supreme Court Likely To End Affirmative Action

The US Supreme Court is set to consider in two pending cases whether the country’s colleges may continue to use race as a factor in student admissions.

The decision may change the future of affirmative action policy, introduced to redress historic discrimination, in higher education, reports Xinhua news agency.

A study released on March 28 by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce warns that racial and ethnic diversity on university campuses could decline even if the institutions give more weight to factors, such as the socio-economic class of applicants.

“Without race-conscious admissions, the role selective colleges play in creating equal opportunity in our society is likely to diminish,” said Zack Mabel, co-author of the study.

Picture : Nebraska Examiner

According to the study titled “Race-Conscious Affirmative Action: What’s Next”, colleges would have to “fundamentally alter their admissions practices” to achieve diversity, particularly among Blacks, Hispanics and Indigenous students, if the Supreme Court bans affirmative action in college admissions.

According to the study, an alternative admissions process that includes socio-economic status would achieve a high level of racial and ethnic diversity if colleges eliminate preferences for legacy applicants, student athletes, those with ties to donors and other such factors that mostly benefit White, affluent applicants.

About 60 per cent of top US colleges consider race as a factor in admissions, according to 2015 estimates.

In addition, schools would have to expand their recruitment of high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds for a class-based alternative to produce a similar outcome to race-conscious admissions, the study found.

In 2022, the court heard two cases that had arguments challenging affirmative action admission policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina that use race and ethnicity among other factors.

In the case at Harvard University, the group named Students for Fair Admissions accused the school of holding Asian-American students to a higher educational standard than it did African-American or Hispanic students.

According to experts, if the Supreme Court rules against the colleges, the landscape of college admissions would change drastically, and many schools fear losing what they have gained in diversity over the years. (IANS)

Measuring Costs, Benefits, And Financial Value Of Higher Education

Higher education has long been a vehicle for economic mobility and the primary center for workforce skill development. But alongside the recognition of the many individual and societal benefits from postsecondary education has been a growing focus on the individual and societal costs of financing higher education. In light of national conversations about growing student loan debt and repayment, there have been growing calls for improved higher education accountability and interrogating the value of different higher education programs.

The U.S. Department of Education recently requested feedback on a policy proposal to create a list of “low-financial-value” higher education programs. The Department hopes the list will highlight programs that do not provide substantial financial benefits to students relative to the costs incurred, in hopes of (1) steering students away from those programs and (2) applying pressure on institutions on the list to improve the value of those programs—either on the cost or the benefit side. Drawing on my comments to the Department, in this piece, I outline the key considerations when measuring the value of a college education, the implications of those decisions on what programs the list will flag, and how the Department’s efforts can be more effective at achieving its goals.

WHY CREATE A LIST OF LOW-FINANCIAL-VALUE PROGRAMS?

Ultimately, whether college will “pay off” is highly individualized, dependent on students’ earnings potential absent education, how they fund the education, and some combination of effort and luck that will determine their post-completion employment. What value does a federal list of “low-financial-value” programs provide students beyond their own knowledge of these factors?

First, it is challenging for students to evaluate the cost of college given that the “sticker price” costs colleges list rarely reflect the “net price” most students actually pay after accounting for financial aid. Many higher education institutions employ a “high cost, high aid” model that results in students paying wildly different prices for the same education. Colleges are supposed to provide “net price calculators” on their websites to help students estimate their actual expenses, but a recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found only 59% of colleges provide any net price estimate, and only 9% of colleges were accurately estimating net price. When students do not have accurate estimates of costs, they are vulnerable to making suboptimal enrollment decisions.

Second, it is difficult for students to estimate the benefits of postsecondary education. While on average individuals earn more as they accrue more education—with associate degree holders earning $7,800 more each year than those with a high school diploma and bachelor’s degree holders earning $21,200 more each year than those with an associate degree—that return varies substantially across fields of study within each level of education and across institutions within those fields of study. Yet students rarely have access to this program-specific information when making their enrollment decisions.

The Department has focused on developing a list of “low-financial-value” programs from an individual, monetary perspective. But it is important to note there are non-financial costs and benefits to society, as well as to individuals. There are many careers that have high value to society, but that do not typically have high wages. Higher education institutions cannot control the local labor market, and there is a risk that in response to the proposed list, institutions would simply cut “low-financial-value” programs, worsening labor shortages in some key professions. For example, wages are notoriously low in the early education sector, where labor shortages and high turnover rates have significant negative effects on student outcomes. Flagging postsecondary programs that result in slightly higher wages for their childcare graduates is less productive than policy efforts to ensure adequate pay to attract and retain those workers into this crucial profession.

HOW TO MEASURE THE VALUE OF A COLLEGE EDUCATION?

This is not the first time the Department has proposed holding programs accountable for their graduates’ employment outcomes. The most analogous effort has been the measurement of “gainful employment” (GE) for career programs. As the Biden administration prepares to release a new gainful employment rule in spring 2023, elements of that effort offer a starting point for the current accountability initiative. Specifically, the proposed GE rules of using both the previously calculated debt-to-earnings ratio and setting a new “high school equivalent” benchmark for outcomes provide a framework for evaluating the broader set of programs and credential levels proposed under the “low-financial-value” effort.

SETTING BENEFITS BENCHMARKS

The primary financial benefits of a postsecondary education are greater employment stability and higher wages. The U.S. Census Post-Secondary Employment Outcomes (PSEO) data works in partnership with states to measure both outcomes, though wage data only includes those earning above a “minimum wage” threshold and coverage varies across states. With those caveats, I use PSEO to examine outcomes for programs in the four states reporting data for more than 75% of graduates (Indiana, Montana, Texas, and Virginia, limiting analysis to programs with at least 40 graduates).

The Department is deliberating on which benchmark to measure outcomes against, and here I examine how programs would stack up against two potential wage benefits benchmarks: 1) earning more than 225% of the federal poverty rate ($28,710, which is similar to a $25,000 benchmark frequently proposed); and 2) earning more than the average high school graduate ($36,600). These benchmarks are compared against the median reported earnings of a program’s median graduate; those where the median graduate’s earnings fail to meet the benchmark are at risk of being labeled a “low-financial-value” program.

Many certificate programs produce low wages

As illustrated in Figure 1, while only 2.8% of all programs fail the first benchmark of 225% of the federal poverty rate, 15% of postsecondary programs fail the second benchmark against high school graduate earnings. Failure rates vary across credential levels, with certificates being most likely to produce low wages. Though nearly all bachelor’s and master’s degree programs meet both benchmarks, 3% of associate degrees, 6% of long-term certificates (one to two years) and 10% of short-term certificates (less than a year) fail to produce median earnings above 225% of the federal poverty line, and more than a third of certificate programs have median graduate earnings below that of an average high school graduate.

That no master’s programs fail a high-school earnings benchmark is not surprising—the counterfactual for master’s program graduates is the earnings from holding a bachelor’s degree, not the earnings from a high school degree. However, calculating a “bachelor’s degree equivalent” benchmark would be challenging given wide variation in the returns to bachelor’s degrees, motivating the need to consider additional outcomes (e.g., employment) and contextualizing benefits with cost to understand the value of master’s programs.

More programs pass employment benchmarks

I next constructed a “high school equivalency” employment benchmark of more than 50% or 60% of graduates employed (in any field) five years after graduation. In Figure 2, I show that while fewer programs fail employment benchmarks than the earnings thresholds, many certificate programs see a substantial share of their graduates unemployed. About one fifth of short-term certificate programs fail to see 60% or more of their graduates employed five years after graduation.

Programs with comparatively worse earnings outcomes are not always those with worse employment outcomes. For example, about two thirds of short-term certificates in Family/Human Development programs (typically early childhood education programs) have median graduate earnings below 225% of the federal poverty level, but only 9% of those programs fail the employment benchmark, mirroring research finding many short-term certificates lead to employment stability, even if they do not result in high wages. Conversely, while virtually no master’s programs failed the earnings threshold, about 4% of master’s programs result in fewer than 50% of graduates employed.

COST-BENEFIT COMPARISON

While graduates’ earnings and employment are important outcomes, there are many programs where graduates meet these thresholds but perhaps not enough to justify the cost of the program, hence the Department’s intent to incorporate college costs in constructing a “low-financial-value” list. The Department could measure college costs in two ways—how much students pay up front (e.g., average net price) and how much they repay over the course of their lifetime (e.g., debt repayment, or a debt-to-earnings ratio as used in gainful employment rules). Each has advantages and disadvantages. Program-level cost of attendance estimates impose additional reporting burdens on institutions and don’t include the ongoing costs of loan interest. Debt-to-earnings ratios use more easily available data (and are already used for gainful employment) but only for borrowers and require complicated amortization decisions about what repayment plans to use.

These seemingly wonky decisions could result in substantially different debt-to-earnings estimates and would result in significant differences in which schools appear on a “low-financial-value” list. While the latest proposed income-driven repayment (IDR) plan is still under construction, the use of IDR plans has increased over time—from 11% to 24% of undergraduate-only borrowers and from 6% to 39% of graduate borrowers between 2010 and 2017. Under the proposed IDR plan, many students would have zero expected monthly payments, which other scholars have flagged would also eliminate the utility of the “cohort default rate” accountability measure. Using the standard repayment plan in accountability efforts is likely still the preferred option but would result in programs being flagged for having a higher debt-to-earnings ratio than their graduates actually face given these more affordable repayment options.

Even after deciding on a repayment plan, there are important decisions to make about acceptable benchmark levels. GE rules offer two potential debt-to-income thresholdsdebt comprising 8% to 12% of graduates’ monthly income (dubbed the “warning zone”) and 12% or more of monthly income (the GE failing rate). The College Scorecard reports limited program-level earnings and debt data. Using the latest field-of-study data, I examined the share of programs with at least 40 graduates and with non-suppressed debt and earnings data that failed those thresholds. I also calculated a more lenient benchmark of debt more than 20% of monthly income (since prior GE rules measured debt and earnings on a different timeline and sample than College Scorecard).

Here I see a reversal in the profile of institutions feeling accountability pressure. While all bachelor’s degree programs produced median earnings above the minimal poverty benchmark (recall Figure 1), Figure 3 shows they are more likely than subbaccalaureate programs to be in the warning zone for debt-to-earnings ratios, with 17% of the programs reporting median debt that exceeds 8% of median graduate earnings. Notably, many graduate-level programs fail even the more lenient benchmark, with 60% of first professional degree programs leaving graduates with monthly debt payments exceeding 20% of earnings. First professional degrees include law, medicine, pharmaceutical science, and veterinary medicine. These programs do produce high earnings but also high debt—though there is variance even within field of study.

In Table 1, I highlight the median income and debt for the three most common professional degree programs, looking separately by whether they pass or fail a 20% debt-to-earnings ratio. There are limitations to this analysis—many programs do not have data available in the College Scorecard. However, coverage is higher for first professional degree programs and the sample for these programs is similar to the number of accredited programs in the U.S. (e.g., my data includes 156 law programs, and the American Bar Association has accredited 199 law programs).

Table 1. Median wages and debt at first professional degree programs
Debt <20% Income Debt >20% Income Low vs. High DE Programs
Monthly Wages Monthly Debt N programs Monthly Wages Monthly Debt N programs Wage Difference Debt Difference
Law  $7,468  $1,087 95  $5,371  $1,558 61  $2,097  $(471)
Medicine  $6,174  $1,059 7  $5,627  $2,107 89  $547  $ (1,048)
Pharmaceutical Science  $9,502  $1,151 67  $10,564  $2,441 19  $ (1,062)  $ (1,290)
Note: Compares median graduate earnings three years after completing highest credential to the median estimated payment for Stafford and Grad PLUS loan debt disbursed at that institution, for the first professional degree programs with the largest number of programs reporting data. Restricts sample to programs reporting at least 40 graduates to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and those with non-suppressed debt and earnings data. Programs reported at the four-digit CIP level.

Limitations notwithstanding, the table illustrates the different wage and debt profiles that graduates encounter even within the same fields. In law and medicine, programs that pass my lenient debt-to-earnings threshold tend to have both higher wages and lower debt, while in pharmaceutical sciences the programs that pass the threshold have both lower wages and debt. There are many law and pharmaceutical science programs that pass the threshold, while fewer medicine programs do. These graduate-level comparisons are where a “low-financial-value” list could have a significant impact on students’ decision making—students are more likely to be geographically mobile for graduate studies and should know not all programs result in similar levels of financial stability. Further, sharing the raw wage and debt data as I do in Table 1 alongside metrics such as a debt-to-earning ratio can help students better understand their investment—students accumulate substantial debt for first professional degrees, and a ratio might mask the magnitude of the underlying wage and debt figures.

TO WHAT END? CONSIDERATIONS FOR LIST DISSEMINATION AND IMPACT

The Department of Education expects the proposed list of “low-financial-value” programs will provide prospective students with insights into which programs will not “pay off” and which they should be cautious about pursuing. However, evidence from previous Department accountability efforts indicate this list is unlikely to meaningfully affect students’ enrollment decisions. One analysis of the College Affordability and Transparency Center (CATC) lists found no effect on institutional behavior or student application patterns at schools flagged for having large year-over-year increases in costs. When the Department rolled out the College Scorecard, reporting detailed college cost and anticipated earnings information through a well-designed dashboard, researchers found schools with higher reported costs did not experience any change in SAT score submissions, and while schools with higher reported graduate earnings did receive slightly more SAT score submissions, those effects were concentrated among students attending private high schools and high schools with a lower share of students receiving free/reduced price lunch. In other words, the information appeared to primarily benefit students already well positioned to navigate college enrollment decisions.

Insights from behavioral science can inform how the Department can best design and share this information with students in order to steer students to more informed postsecondary enrollment decisions:

First, information should be proactive. Rather than hoping students will incorporate the “low-financial-value” list into their decision-making, the Department should engage in an outreach campaign to provide this information to students. For example, the Department could mail a copy of the “low-financial-value” list to anyone who files the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Second, information should be personalized, particularly to students’ geography. At minimum, any online display of these programs should be filterable by geography. Ideally, any Department proactive dissemination efforts would customize information by geography as well.

Third, information should be actionable—students should know what to do with this list. If the Department has specific recommendations on how students should behave based on this information, they should make it clear.

The Department has high hopes for this accountability effort, and it is in their best interests to design and disseminate information in a way that ensures students and families can easily understand the information. If the list cannot demonstrate an impact on students’ enrollment decisions, it is unlikely that programs will respond in any meaningful way to “improve” their value.

THE CAPACITY FOR IMPACT

“There is broad bipartisan consensus that the financing of higher education is in dire need of reform.”

On the surface, measuring the costs and benefits of college may seem to be a straightforward exercise. In practice, doing so requires several nuanced decisions about what to include in that formula. This analysis suggests that a pure “high school equivalency” wage benefit would be more likely to flag credentials and associate degree programs, and that a slightly higher annual wage threshold (a difference of ~$8,000) results in a dramatic increase in the share of programs flagged—going from 3% to 24% of associate degree programs. Few prior accountability efforts have focused on employment rates and doing so would include many more bachelor’s and master’s degree programs on the list. The Department will likely look to gainful employment rules to determine a cost-benefit comparison. The GE debt-to-earnings ratio would flag a smaller share of credential programs relative to just using a high school equivalency benchmark and would flag a substantial share of graduate programs—nearly all first professional degree programs would be in the “warning zone” for typical GE rules. Regardless of the exact metrics the Department selects, if the hope is to affect student enrollment and put pressure on institutions to improve their value, the Department should carefully attend to list design and proactive dissemination.

There is broad bipartisan consensus that the financing of higher education is in dire need of reform. Accountability will necessarily play a role in those reform efforts, though it is unclear the extent to which the proposed “low-financial-value” list will provide that accountability. The devil is in the details. Seemingly small decisions about which costs and benefits to include, for whom, and over what timeline matters for the conclusions we draw about higher education outcomes. If done well, this list has the potential to provide useful information to students in a complex college enrollment decision. Researchers, higher education leaders, and legislators have provided their advice to the Department on how to execute this policy, and I am eager to see how they incorporate that advice. (Katharine Meyer is a Fellow – Governance StudiesBrown Center on Education Policy)

Professor Lakshmi Balachandra Sues US College For Discrimination

Indian-origin Lakshmi Balachandra, an associate professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College’s Wellesley Business School, Massachusetts filed a gender discrimination lawsuit in the US District Court in Boston against the institution.

According to a Boston Globe report the lawsuit alleges that Balachandra was subjected to gender and racial discrimination at the institution. “Babson favours white and male faculty and predominantly reserves awards and privileges for them,” the complaint filed in the court reads.

Lakshmi Balachandra alleged she lost career opportunities and faced economic losses, emotional distress, and harm to her reputation because of mistreatment and administrators’ failure to investigate her concerns, The Boston Globe newspaper reported on February 27.

Lakshmi Balachandra joined Babson’s faculty in 2012 and earned tenure in 2019. In her lawsuit, she called out Andrew Corbett, a professor and former chair of the college’s entrepreneurship division, as the “primary direct perpetrators of the discriminatory work environment.”

According to the complaint filed in US District Court in Boston dated February 27, Lakshmi Balachandra alleged that Corbett, who oversaw teaching assignments, class scheduling, and annual reviews, only allowed her to teach required courses in entrepreneurship despite her requests to teach electives – even though she had taught such classes previously at MIT Sloan School of Management and Harvard Business School.

“Babson favours white and male faculty and predominantly reserves awards and privileges for them,” Lakshmi Balachandra’s complaint alleged. According to the complaint, despite her research record, expressed interest, and service to the college, she was denied numerous leadership positions and opportunities for more time to conduct research and write.

“Such privileges are routinely given to white male faculty in the entrepreneurship division,” the complaint read. Lakshmi Balachandra’s attorney, Monica Shah, said that the professor has also filed a charge of discrimination with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

Meanwhile, Babson College has responded that it takes concerns or complaints seriously and has well-established protocols and resources in place to thoroughly investigate and address them.

“The college is home to a diverse global community where equity and inclusion are valued and incorporated across every facet of campus, and where discrimination of any kind is not tolerated,” a spokesperson of Babson College was quoted as saying. Lakshmi Balachandra, who is currently on leave for a fellowship at the National Science Foundation, is seeking unspecified damages, the report added.

Your Next Colleague Might Be Artificial Intelligence

Newswise — Most companies are likely to ‘employ’ a digital human within a decade, according to researchers from the University of Sydney Business School.

A digital human is a combination of artificial intelligence and a computer-generated avatar that can interact with people and produce realistic human speech and facial expressions in real time.

From Siri to ChatGPT, most of us have already interacted with artificial intelligence – sometimes without even knowing. Digital humans take this technology to the next level by overlaying it with the kind of powerful and lifelike visual effects once limited to Hollywood blockbusters.

Writing in Harvard Business Review, researchers from the University of Sydney, Indiana University and Iowa State University collectively drew on their research to offer insights on the future of the workforce where humans work side-by-side with digital employees.

They write: “When deployed at scale, digital humans will radically change the business landscape. They may not be as capable or versatile as human employees, but they have clear advantages when it comes to cost, customisability, and scalability.

“Once ‘hired’, they never tire, never complain, never seek a raise, and always follow company policy.”

What can a digital employee do?

Article co-author Dr Mike Seymour, senior lecturer at the University of Sydney and co-director of Motus Lab, said digital humans have already been successfully employed in a variety of fields.

The search for more engaging customer experiences has seen the invention of digital sales representatives who can suggest and model clothing and cosmetics for online shoppers.

Digital humans can be grouped into four basic categories:

Virtual agent: serves multiple users to complete specific, one-time tasks, such as customer service.

Virtual assistant: supports the user regularly with a specific task such as shopping or physical therapy.

Virtual influencer: supply their followers with non-customised content to market products or experiences.

Virtual companion: develops a close relationship with the user that is based on interaction for its own sake, not the completion of specific tasks, but can assist with tasks such as reminding users to take their medication.

“While I would cautiously warn companies not to blindly dive into this new technology, there are productivity gains in pairing the correct type of digital employee with suitable business functions,” Dr Seymour said.

“A traditional text interface such as a chatbot is preferred for quick interactions, but a digital human can do a much better job communicating complex instructions and emotionally engaging with a customer. They also work well in a situation where the customer isn’t sure what they want and is open to exploring options,” adds co-author Dan Lovallo, Professor of Strategy, Innovation and Decision Sciences at the University of Sydney.

Human employees will still be vital

Despite the promise and broad applications of AI-driven technology, the researchers do not believe digital humans will replace the real thing in any industry.

“We’re still a long way, if ever, from AI being able to recognise and respond to all the complex nuances of verbal and non-verbal communication,” said co-author Professor Kai Riemer, Head of Business Information Systems at the University of Sydney Business School.

“As realistic and lifelike as a digital human may seem, ultimately it is never ‘thinking’ and lacks any true understanding of what is being communicated.

“Its greatest advantage over existing AI technology is also its ultimate limitation: our own innate desire for face-to-face human interaction.”

Join the authors of the Harvard Business Review article in a webinar at 8:30am AEDT on Friday, February 25, where they will share their research on digital humans. The discussion will include more use cases of digital employees across multiple industries, current state-of-the-art strategies for deploying digital employees, and their thoughts on how digital employees will shape the landscape of future workforce.

US Supreme Court Hears Case On Students Loan Forgiveness

(AP) — The United States Supreme Court won’t have far to look if it wants a personal take on the “crushing weight” of student debt that underlies the Biden administration’s college loan forgiveness plan. Justice Clarence Thomas was in his mid-40s and in his third year on the nation’s highest court when he paid off the last of his debt from his time at Yale Law School.

Thomas, the court’s longest-serving justice and staunchest conservative, has been skeptical of other Biden administration initiatives. And when the Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday involving President Joe Biden’s debt relief plan that would wipe away up to $20,000 in outstanding student loans, Thomas is not likely to be a vote in the administration’s favor.

But the justices’ own experiences can be relevant in how they approach a case, and alone among them, Thomas has written about the role student loans played in his financial struggles.

A fellow law school student even suggested Thomas declare bankruptcy after graduating “to get out from under the crushing weight of all my student loans,” the justice wrote in his best-selling 2007 memoir, “My Grandfather’s Son.” He rejected the idea.

It’s not clear that any of the other justices borrowed money to attend college or law school or have done so for their children’s educations. Some justices grew up in relative wealth. Others reported they had scholarships to pay their way to some of the country’s most expensive private institutions.

Picture : TheUNN

Of the seven justices on the court who are parents, four have signaled through their investments that they don’t want their own children to be saddled with onerous college debt, and have piled money into tax-free college savings accounts that might limit any need for loans.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Neil Gorsuch have the most on hand, at least $600,000 and at least $300,000, respectively, according to annual disclosure reports the justices filed in 2022. Each has two children.

Justices Amy Coney Barrett, who has seven children, and Ketanji Brown Jackson, who has two, also have invested money in college-savings accounts, in which any earnings or growth is tax free if spent on education. None of the justices would comment for this story, a court spokeswoman said.

Thomas wrote vividly about his past money woes in his up-from-poverty story, recounting how a bank once foreclosed on one of his loans because repayment and delinquency notices were sent to his grandparents’ house in Savannah, Georgia, instead of Thomas’ home at the time in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Thomas was able to take out another loan to repay the bank only because his mentor, John Danforth, then-Missouri attorney general and later a U.S. senator, vouched for him.

Thomas noted that he signed up for a tuition postponement program at Yale in which a group of students jointly paid for their outstanding loans according to their financial ability, with those earning the most paying the most.

At the time, Thomas’ first wife, Kathy, was pregnant. “I didn’t know what else to do, so I signed on the dotted line, and spent the next two decades paying off the money I borrowed during my last two years at Yale,” Thomas wrote.

When he was first nominated to be a federal judge in 1989, Thomas reported $10,000 in outstanding student loans, according to a news report at the time. The Biden administration has picked the same number as the amount of debt relief most borrowers would get under its plan.

Personal experience can shape the justices’ questions in the courtroom and affect their private conversations about a case, even if it doesn’t figure in the outcome.

“It is helpful to have people with life experiences that are varied just because it enriches the conversation,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor has said. Sotomayor, like Thomas, also grew up poor. She got a full scholarship to Princeton as an undergraduate, she has said, and went on to Yale for law school, as Thomas did.

Keeping people from avoiding the kinds of difficult choices Thomas faced is a key part of the administration’s argument for loan forgiveness. The administration says that without additional help, many borrowers will fall behind on their payments once a hold in place since the start of the coronavirus pandemic three years ago is lifted, no later than this summer.

Under a plan announced in August but so far blocked by federal courts, $10,000 in federal loans would be canceled for people making less than $125,000 or for households with less than $250,000 in income. Recipients of Pell Grants, who tend to have fewer financial resources, would get an additional $10,000 in debt forgiven.

The White House says 26 million people already have applied and 16 million have been approved for relief. The program is estimated to cost $400 billion over the next three decades.

The legal fight could turn on any of several elements, including whether the Republican-led states and individuals suing over the plan have legal standing to go to court and whether Biden has the authority under federal law for so extensive a loan forgiveness program.

Nebraska and other states challenging the program argue that far from falling behind, 20 million borrowers would get a “windfall” because their entire student debt would be erased, Nebraska Attorney General Michael Hilgers wrote in the states’ main Supreme Court brief.

Which of those arguments resonate with the court may become clear on Tuesday.

When she was dean of Harvard Law School, Justice Elena Kagan showed her own concern about the high cost of law school, especially for students who were considering lower-paying jobs.

Kagan established a program that would allow students to attend their final year tuition-free if they agreed to a five-year commitment to work in the public sector. While that program no longer exists, Harvard offers grants to students for public service work.

At the time the program was created, Kagan said she wanted students to be able to go to work where they “can make the biggest difference, but that isn’t the case now.” Instead, she said: “They often go to work where they don’t want to work because of the debt burden.”

Natasha Perianayagam Featured Among Johns Hopkins’ World’s ‘Brightest’ Students

An Indian-American teenager has been named in the “world’s brightest” students list for a second year in a row by the US-based Johns Hopkins Center For Talented Youth (CTY), based on the results of above-grade-level tests of more than 15,000 students across 76 countries.

Natasha Perianayagam, 13, is a student of Florence M Gaudineer Middle School in New Jersey. She has been recognized for her exceptional performance on the SAT, ACT, School and College Ability Test, or similar assessment taken as part of the CTY Talent Search, a university press release said.

Natasha, whose parents hail from Chennai, also took the Johns Hopkins Talent Search test in Spring 2021 when she was in class 5. Her results in the verbal and quantitative sections levelled with the 90th percentile of advanced Grade 8 performance.

“This motivates me to do more,” she had then said, adding that doodling and reading JRR Tolkien’s novels may have worked for her.

Natasha scored the highest grades among all candidates In her latest attempt, the university statement said adding that she “was among the 15,300 students from 76 countries who joined CTY in the 2021-22 Talent Search year”.

“This is not just recognition of our students’ success on one test, but a salute to their love of discovery and learning, and all the knowledge they have accumulated in their young lives so far,” CTY’s executive director Dr Amy Shelton said.

“It is exciting to think about all the ways in which they will use that potential to discover their passions, engage in rewarding and enriching experiences, and achieve remarkable things — in their communities and in the world,” Shelton added.

CTY uses above-grade-level testing to identify advanced students from around the world and provide a clear picture of their true academic abilities.

The quantitative section of the Johns Hopkins CTY test measures the ability to see relationships between quantities expressed in mathematical terms, the verbal section measures understanding of the meaning of words and the relationships between them. (IANS)

TiE Boston Opens the 2023 University Pitch Competition for Collegiate Entrepreneurs

TiE Boston calls for applications to the 2023 University Pitch Competition, for collegiate entrepreneurs. The winning team will go on represent TiE Boston at the global finals of the TiE University Global Pitch Competition.

TiE Boston’s 2023 Chair of the competition, SourceTrace CEO and social entrepreneur Dr. Venkat Maroju said: “I am proud of the work that the TiE Boston University Initiative is doing. It is an excellent opportunity for college students and recent graduates to gain an entrepreneurial mindset and be the next generation of entrepreneurs in New England and beyond. Student teams participating in the pitch competition will gain access to a large network of successful entrepreneurs and corporate business leaders of TiE in a global context.”

Registration to the TiE Boston University Pitch competition is currently open and will close on Feb 17, 2023. It is open to all founders in the New England area who are currently in college or have graduated after Jan 2020, with a start-up less than 5 years old. For non-bio companies, commercially viable product/service with revenues is preferred.

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As part of the competition, the startups will be mentored and coached by experienced entrepreneurs at the regional level. Shortlisted semifinalists will present their ideas to a seasoned jury panel that will select the chapter (regional) winner. The winning team will then become part of the global cohort which undergoes extensive mentoring and coaching by international mentors. These mentoring sessions cover many skills from pitching, presentation design, defining value proposition, fundraising, financial models and many other aspects of entrepreneurship.

As they move on to the TiE University Global Pitch Competition, the cohort then presents to an international jury and competes for cash and in-kind prizes of $150,000+, including a grand first prize of $50,000.

Important Dates for the TiE Boston University Pitch Competition

Applications Close Feb. 17, 2023

Semi-Final in Boston March 31, 2023

Global Final on May 4, 2023

To learn more about this competition and to learn how to apply, please visit https://tieboston.org/tie-boston-university. If you are interested in getting involved or have any questions, reach out to the TiE Boston office at [email protected].

Dr. Venkat Maroju is Chief Executive Officer of SourceTrace, a global leader in providing software solutions to agriculture and allied sectors, making the agriculture value chain sustainable, transparent and equitable – empowering more than one million farmers in developing countries. Prior to joining SourceTrace, Maroju had founded Factum Ventures, a holding company in India that set up and promoted new business ventures in sustainable agriculture, microfinance and renewable energy. He was also advisor to venture capital firms investing in social enterprises that supported people at the bottom of the pyramid in developing economies. His earlier experience with technology leadership includes well known global corporations like Bose, where, as Divisional Information Officer, he led the information systems strategy and implementation. He also held a leadership position at ComauPICO (A subsidiary of Fiat). He holds an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management and a Ph.D. in Engineering from Old Dominion University and M.E. from IISc and B.E. from Osmania University

Dr. Bellamkonda Kishore & Dr. Wade Fallin Named 2023 National Academy Of Inventors Senior Members

University of Utah Health professors Thomas (Wade) Fallin and Bellamkonda Kishore, M.D., Ph.D., have been named Senior Members by the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). They are part of the 2023 class of Senior Members made up of 95 of the foremost emerging academic inventors identified by NAI’s Member Institutions.

Fallin and Kishore join Ashutosh Tiwari, Ph.D., an engineering professor at the U, as the university’s three NAI Senior Members. Tiwari was elected in 2021. NAI Senior Members are active faculty, scientists, and administrators from NAI Member Institutions who have demonstrated remarkable innovation producing technologies that have brought, or aspire to bring, real impact on the welfare of society. They also have growing success in patents, licensing, and commercialization, while educating and mentoring the next generation of inventors.

Bellamkonda Kishore

Kishore, an adjunct professor of internal medicine (nephrology), has researched physiology, pathophysiology, and experimental therapeutics of the kidney, obesity, and related systems for 40 years. His career has spanned the globe from India and Japan to Belgium and the United States, including four years at the intramural research program of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and two decades as faculty in the Department of Internal Medicine at University of Utah Health and principal investigator in the Department of Veterans Affairs Salt Lake City Health Care System.

Recently, Kishore’s career branched off to a new path—entrepreneurship. In addition to his adjunct position at the U, he is the CEO, president, co-founder, and CSO of ePurines, a startup located in the U’s Research Park. Kishore’s patented technologies—commercialized through ePurines—offer innovative purinergic signaling-based therapies for obesity, metabolic syndrome, and a variety of kidney, liver, heart, and lung diseases with a target patient population of 500 million to 1 billion globally.

When Kishore graduated from medical school in 1976, he spent barely six months practicing medicine before deciding to return to medical school to research the kidney. “That was a very tough decision because you’re leaving a bright and secure future,” he said. “But my heart was in the science from the beginning, and somehow I could not be happy sitting in the clinic and looking at patients.”

Being named an NAI Senior Member is “a rewarding recognition” that his choice to continue his research was correct. “It is a culmination of 40 years of my research life,” said Kishore, who believes that a passionate, purpose-oriented life is far superior to an ambitious, success-driven life.

Wade Fallin

Fallin, an orthopaedics research professor and Louis S. Peery, M.D. Orthopaedic Innovation Center (LSP OIC) executive director, has started and sold five companies in the medical device industry with a focus on the orthopaedics and spine markets and holds over 250 issued U.S. patents.

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“My entire career focus has been on innovating new medical device technologies that reduce pain and suffering resulting from injury or disease,” Fallin said. “In addition to being a ‘serial entrepreneur,’ I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to be a ‘serial innovator,’ which has led to over a dozen commercial orthopaedic surgical systems that are in clinical use around the world today.”

The LSP OIC and Fallin, with his history as an entrepreneur combined with his experience at the U starting in 2019, are excellent resources to U faculty members and students looking to “understand the process of translating from early-stage ideas to something that’s clinically and commercially successful for medical devices,” Fallin said.

“The National Academy of Inventors fosters innovation in academic settings,” Fallin said. “Their membership works to increase the level of innovation at universities, so being part of that is really appealing to me.”

This latest class of NAI Senior Members, the largest to date, demonstrates a shared commitment to celebrating the diversity of the academic ecosystem, with 48 outstanding female and/or minority academic inventors included. Hailing from 50 NAI member institutions and research universities across the nation, this impressive class are named inventors on more than 1,200 issued U.S. patents, with many of those being licensed and commercialized.

“I’m delighted to see how this program has expanded in just a couple years’ time,” said Paul R. Sanberg, FNAI, NAI president. “It really reflects the shift we are seeing at universities where invention is not only being recognized but prioritized as well.”

The 2023 class of Senior Members will be celebrated at NAI’s Annual Meeting, Diversifying Innovation for a Strong Economy and a Sustainable Future, taking place June 25-27, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

University of Utah Health  provides leading-edge and compassionate care for a referral area that encompasses Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and much of Nevada. The National Academy of Inventors is a member organization comprising U.S. and international universities, and governmental and non-profit research institutes, with over 4,000 individual inventor members and Fellows spanning more than 250 institutions worldwide

India Likely To Allow Foreign Universities

Can India create a higher education system worthy of its aspirations as a full-fledged knowledge economy? That’s still to be determined. But India is on the verge of taking a major, long-awaited first step in the right direction: With the recent release of draft rules by the country’s higher education regulator – the University Grants Commission – India is moving closer to allowing high-quality foreign universities to set up campuses to help meet the country’s growing appetite for advanced education.

Crucially, under the rules, which will have to be approved by Parliament, foreign universities would get the freedom to decide their own curriculums, fix fees and hire faculty at terms of their choosing. They would even be allowed to repatriate earnings. That all might seem underwhelming to readers accustomed to the U.S. system. But it would be a radical – and, eventually, perhaps game-changing – shift for India.

And India’s higher education system badly needs shaking up. Setting aside issues of quality (as if those can be set aside), India does not come close to providing sufficient seats to those aspiring to higher education – a glaring shortcoming as India’s burgeoning middle class strives to prepare their children for the opportunities of the future.

India’s system has its successes, of course, but they are narrow. Just nine Indian higher education institutions made the top 500 of the most recent QS World University Rankings. The top one – the Indian Institute of Science (at 155) – is a highly specialized institution focused on postgraduate studies and research in the sciences. The other eight are part of the well-known Indian Institutes of Technology, which specialize in engineering. The highest-ranked comprehensive university was the University of Delhi, falling in the 520s.

That is simply not good enough. All told, India has just over 1,000 institutions of higher learning. China, with a similar population, has three times that. The United States, with a much smaller population, has four times as many.

India’s gross enrollment ratio for higher education – the percentage of college-age adults who are enrolled – is around 27 percent, much lower than in advanced economies and even other emerging economies such as Brazil and China. Expect that figure to increase. If the supply of higher education cannot keep pace, more students will look overseas, as so many already do. Canada, the United States, Australia and Britain are primary destinations. The “import” of higher education from other English-speaking countries makes no sense for a country that prides itself on a service-based economy and its English language advantage. Education should be a sector that provides export earnings.

So, what’s the problem? Overregulation, as with so much of the Indian economy. Other parts of the economy have been liberalized over the years, but not higher ed.

More than half of Indian colleges and universities are government-run – around 200 by the federal government and 400 by state governments. Of course, it is not uncommon for countries to have large public university systems. But India grants little autonomy to such institutions, which have no freedom to set tuition and fees – kept artificially low by the pressures of populist politics.

Thus, institutions are totally dependent on the government for funding, eroding what autonomy exists on paper. The federal and state governments have serious fiscal constraints, and higher education always struggles in the competition for resources. Faculty salaries are benchmarked with civil servants, but at a somewhat lower level; tenure and promotions are based on service time, not merit. There is no way to reward stellar talent.

Private universities, too, are overly regulated and cannot operate for profit. That deters the best entrepreneurs from entering the sector.

Critics argue that allowing in foreign universities will not solve the problem, and it’s true it won’t be a cure-all. But if even a small number of acclaimed universities establish campuses, it would both improve overall quality and inject some competition into a sector that badly needs it. It should also induce more top academic talent to stay in India.

More important, it would set a precedent that Indian universities, both public and private, can and will use to argue for greater liberalization and freedom. They will push for a level playing field, which will eventually be granted. In the long run, high-quality foreign university campuses and improved Indian institutions can attract students from Africa and elsewhere in Asia, turning higher ed into the growth-and-jobs pillar that it should be in a world-leading economy.

Of course, it would be better if Indian institutions could get the benefits of change before, or at least alongside, foreign universities. But in India’s reform-resistant system, sometimes all you can do is open one window at a time.

Dhiraj Nayyar is the director for economics and policy at Vedanta Resources, whose philanthropic arm runs three not-for-profit colleges in India.

AAPI To Sign Knowledge Sharing Pact With Madhya Pradesh

The Madhya Pradesh government will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) under the State’s Innovation Medical Knowledge Sharing Mission.

The decision was taken by the State’s Medical Education Minister Vishwas Kailash Sarang, following a discussion on mutual exchange in the field of medical education and research with doctors of the AAPI on the second day of the Pravasi Bharatiya Sammelan.

“MoU with the prestigious organization of doctors in America will develop new dimensions in the field of medical education and research. It will help in capacity building and training of medical students and doctors of the state. It will also help in technical cooperation in the establishment of the center of excellence for medical subject expertise,” Sarang said.

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He added that AAPI will also conduct online lectures and workshops for medical students and doctors. ACS Medical Education Mohammad Suleman, president of AAPI delegation Dr Ravi Kolli, Dr Manoj Jain, Dr Prakash Satwani, Dr. sampat Shivangi, Dr Leena Gupta, Dr Vijay Maurya, Dr Pramit, Dr Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, Dr Satheesh Kathula and other dignitaries were present at the meeting.

Australian Visa Delays Put Indian Students Lives On Hold

(IPS) – When Megha Jacob, who had been applying for a doctoral degree at various overseas universities, received an offer from the Australian National University’s Department of Chemistry to do a fully funded PhD, she was thrilled and immediately accepted the position.

It was January 2022. She submitted her visa application and resigned from her job at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. One year later, she is still waiting for her visa to be processed.

Several international Indian students enrolled in doctoral degree courses in Australia’s leading universities have been waiting for their visas to be approved for months, some for up to two years. “The protracted delays have put our lives on hold. We seek clarity and a definitive timeline so we can plan our future,” say students from one of the WhatsApp groups formed by Indian doctoral students facing Australian visa processing delays.

Since the easing of Australia’s stringent COVID-19 restrictions, these students allege, the visa processing time for doctoral degree students has increased. “The median processing time for offshore student visa application was 18 days for the Postgraduate Research Sector in November 2022,” an Australian Department of Home Affairs (DHA) spokesperson tells IPS. However, the most recent processing time on the DHA website for 500 – Student visa (subclass 500) Postgraduate Research Sector shows 90 percent of applications are processed in 10 months.

Processing times will take some time to improve as the department works through older applications in the backlog, according to DHA. Processing times can vary due to applicants’ circumstances, including how long it takes to perform required checks on the supporting information provided by the applicant; and how long it takes to receive information from external agencies. This particularly relates to health, character and national security requirements.

Jacob says, “I have been submitting additional information, such as published research papers, but the last updated date on my visa application page on the DHA portal is still nine months old! I wonder if there is a technical glitch in the system or has my application fallen through the cracks.”

“When I called the DHA last month, I was told that waiting time for 90 percent of applicants is nine months [now its 10 months], and for the remaining 10 percent of applicants, we do not know how long it’s going to take. Presumably, some of us are in that 10 percent. But we don’t know why and what has placed our application in that category,” she adds.

Many students in the WhatsApp group have individually reached out to the DHA through email, the complaints section or via phone, but they have received only generic responses. “I have even written to the Commonwealth Ombudsman and received a similar reply that they are conducting necessary background checks, which can take several months,” says Deepak Chahal, who has a master’s from the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology in Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala).

Chahal, who enrolled as a doctoral student in Macquarie University’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics in December 2020, has been waiting for the past two years for his visa to be processed. He says, “I had begun working remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions, but I can’t continue remotely anymore as I need access to Australian observatories to collect data and the lab to analyse it. I’ve already spent two years doing the research, so abandoning it now is not an option.”

For students in the field of applied science, technology and engineering, working remotely is not an option as they require access to a host of resources –laboratory, equipment, data, fast internet connectivity, and availability of supervisors to oversee their experiments.

“We are losing precious research time as we don’t even know if our visa application will be successful after all this waiting. Our lives are hanging in the balance,” says a 26-year-old applicant from Mumbai (Maharashtra), enrolled in The University of Sydney’s School of Chemistry, who requested anonymity. He applied for his visa in August 2022, as his date of joining was October 1. [Students can submit their application no later than six weeks before their course starts and no earlier than 12 weeks.] He has had to defer his research until his visa application is finalised.

Indian High Commissioner to Australia, Manpreet Vohra, tells IPS, “Many Indian doctorate students with admissions secured at various Australian universities have indeed been waiting for a very long time for their visas to be issued. This has delayed their research and, in some cases, has also jeopardised the grants that have been assured to them. We have been raising this matter regularly with Australian authorities and have urged them for early redressal of the difficulties that the doctorate students are facing.”

The DHA data shows that the higher education sector visa grant rate for 2022-2023 was 76.5 percent to November 30, 2022.

One beacon of hope, these students say, has been the support from Australian universities and the faculty. Dr Clement Canonne, Lecturer at the University of Sydney’s School of Computer Science, recently Tweeted on his personal account: “My hope for 2023 is not to have to raise the PhD and Postgraduate Research #AustralianVisas processing delays issue anymore, and to see not only the current backlog processed, but also increased transparency & communication from @ausgov for applicants.”

There were 1608 Indian nationals enrolled in Doctoral Degree courses out of the 96,005 Indian international students enrolled across all education sectors as of the year-to-date October 2022, according to a spokesperson for the Australian Government’s Department of Education. International students from India across all education sectors contributed $3.729 billion to the Australian economy in the 2021-22 financial year.

Speaking in his personal capacity and not expressing an official university viewpoint, Canonne tells IPS, “Students from India’s premier STEM institutes have many other options. When they, and Chinese and European students, choose to come to work with us, it’s because the research aligns. It’s really disheartening when these exceptional students are accepted, we work hard to apply for funding and get the grant, but then we can’t use the money to do the research for which it is meant because the students’ visa applications are pending for months, even years.”

The Department of Education data shows that in 2019, internationals accounted for 61 percent of Higher Degree Research students in engineering and related technologies and 57 percent in Information Technology.

“We chose Australia because it was a “perfect fit” when it came to the high ranking of Australian universities, professors in our field of research, lab facilities and other resources, full scholarship and shorter duration to complete a PhD in 3.5 years as against five years in most other countries,” says Parkarsh Kumar from Ranchi (Jharkhand), who is enrolled in UNSW Sydney’s Department of Material Science.

He says, “I completed my master’s degree from National Taiwan University on a scholarship and had two job offers, which I declined because I wanted to do a PhD and one day become a professor in an Indian institution. I was a role model in our family and community, but now everyone jokes that don’t be like him because I am sitting at home since January 2022 waiting for my visa application to be processed.”

Many of these students had left their jobs to pursue research, some against the wishes of their parents and elders. The long visa processing delays have caused them mental and financial stress. “If I apply for a job, I am asked why have I not worked for the past 10 months. If I say it’s because I am waiting for my Australian student visa, they immediately reject, stating that then there is no certainty on how long you will work for us,” says Jacob, who has socially isolated herself because while her family is very supportive, the societal pressure of being constantly asked, “When are you going to Australia?” is too much for her.

The long visa delay is prompting some to apply for a PhD in other countries or get a job. The Group of Eight (Go8), representing Australia’s leading research-intensive universities, in its submission dated December 16, 2022, to Australia’s 2023-24 Permanent Migration Program inquiry, noted that “visa backlogs are not just about the number of applicants in the queue, but about the critical expertise that Australia is missing out on, or stands to lose, because of avoidable processing delays.” It urged the DHA “to consider ways to improve and streamline visa assessment processes to facilitate migration in areas of priority or strategic need.” (IPS UN Bureau Report)

What Attracts Indian Students To The US?

In 2021-22, the proportion of students in engineering fell to 29.6 per cent or 58,957 — the rise in absolute numbers is in sync with the overall increase in the number of Indian students in the US.

Engineering is no longer the most popular draw for Indian students headed to the United States for higher education. Programmes in mathematics and computer sciences have gained the top spot in order of preference over the past decade, shows an analysis by The Indian Express of Open Doors data compiled by the US State Department and the non-profit Institute of Interna

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China remains the country that sends the most students to the U.S. But India is closing the gap according to the 2022 report. The number of students from India increased by 19 percent while those from China dropped by nine percent in the most recent school year.

The US has a certain allure for international students; a study destination that has a lot to offer: world-class universities, top-notch student facilities, a burgeoning job market, beautiful and eclectic cities and parks, and a very culturally diverse population.  It stands to reason that India is the second-largest source of international students for the States. Let’s study some of the reasons in detail:

  • Highly-acclaimed and top-ranked US universities

It is a well-established fact that the USA houses some of the best universities – Harvard, Columbia,  Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and more. The list of top 100 universities alone has 56 US universities, more than any other country. The reason US universities are coveted is because of the value they provide on a personal and professional level. Earning a degree from a prestigious university in the US has a guaranteed return, gives the student an edge over other students, and makes them employable across the globe.

The departments are well-funded. The classrooms are optimized to give students more access to web-based learning utilizing computer-based tests and world-class resources, providing more than just theoretical knowledge.

  • Academic flexibility

One of the best features of US universities is that they offer academic flexibility to students to explore their interests and different academic disciplines. An undergraduate student has the option to study a wide range of subjects before they choose a major at the end of the second year. Similarly, in graduate degree programs, students can customize their curriculum with elective courses and combined degrees. They are free to explore different fields of study and find a subject that resonates with them the most.

Another great feature in the US is transfer admission, which allows students to easily transfer their credits from one university to another university. Academic freedom is demonstrated in the classroom as well, where there is an open exchange of different views and perspectives. The professors and students share a close relationship that helps mentor students and inculcates academic curiosity. This flexibility attracts the Indian student community. Moreover, the student-to-faculty ratio is low, which offers room for students and teachers to connect.

  • Ample training and career opportunities

A perfect mix of education and practical experience is offered to students. International students benefit from academic training programs such as OPT and CPT. Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows international students with an F-1 visa to work up to 12 months during or after the study duration. Students with STEM degrees get another 12 months and can work up to 24 months. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is similar to OPT, with the only difference being that it has to be completed before graduation. Both these programs allow students to foray into the job market and make connections with potential employers. It is especially helpful for students because the F-1 visa does not allow “dual intent” and there are limited options for students to stay in the US and work.

Assistantships are another way to work and learn simultaneously. Students can apply to assist in teaching or even work on a research project with a professor. Some are even fortunate enough to work with a leading scholar in their chosen field.

  • Networking opportunities

As expensive as a degree is from the US, it offers equal opportunities to get its worth. Professors are open for discussion and can offer valuable career advice and ways to become employable. Universities host job fairs, workshops, career counseling sessions, networking events to help boost student employability. Recruiters attend these fairs to scout talent. Most US universities also boast a wide alumni network to help mentor and guide students. Networking is one of the best ways students, especially international students, can enter the US job market. If a student is unable to grab hold of any opportunity, they can make use of the university’s career center. A US degree paves the way for a brighter future. In fact, according to the QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2020, US universities rank higher than most in terms of producing the most employable graduate students.

  • Support for international students

Cultural diversity is one of the defining pillars of the universities, as is advertised by almost every US university. The diversity and inclusion of various races and nationalities help universities create a productive environment for the students, where they feel comfortable, are more engaged and motivated to study. Every university campus has an international student service office that addresses the concerns of the international student community. Indian students have an added benefit from the strong presence of the Indian community in the US. Once students move past the initial cultural shock, the diversity will truly open up their worldview.

The universities also provide financial aid to support the students in the form of scholarships, grants, bursaries, and tuition-fee waivers.

Studying in the US is nothing short of a dream for some students – a step closer to achieving the American Dream, to live by the ethos and ideals of a country that ranks number one in practically every aspect. (Courtesy: TOI)

Biden’s New Debt Relief Proposals For Student Loan Borrowers

Broad student-loan forgiveness isn’t the only relief President Joe Biden is hoping to implement for borrowers this year.

On Tuesday, Biden’s Education Department officially proposed reforms to income-driven repayment (IDR) plans, which where created to give student-loan borrowers affordable monthly payments based on income, with the promise of loan forgiveness after at least 20 years.

As reports over the past year revealed, the plans seldom delivered on their promise. An NPR investigation found that some student-loan companies failed to track payments borrowers’ made on the plans, throwing them off of the path to forgiveness, and oftentimes borrowers had to submit requests themselves to get accurate information on where their payments stood.

In light of those flaws, the Education Department announced a series of reforms to the plans that included streamlining the path to loan forgiveness and cutting payments for undergraduate borrowers in half.

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“Today the Biden-Harris administration is proposing historic changes that would make student loan repayment more affordable and manageable than ever before,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “We cannot return to the same broken system we had before the pandemic, when a million borrowers defaulted on their loans a year and snowballing interest left millions owing more than they initially borrowed.”

Here’s what you need to know about these proposed reforms, and why some advocates are still pushing for further relief.

Is Biden creating a completely new IDR plan?

No – not completely new. The Education Department is amending the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plan, the latest iteration of which calculates borrowers’ monthly payments based on their discretionary income with the promise of debt relief after a set number of years in repayment.

This revision mean that the department will also be phasing out other versions of income-driven repayment plans. It will phase out enrollment for borrowers in the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and income-contingent repayment (ICR) plans, and limit when a borrower can switch to an income-based repayment (IBR) plan.

Who is eligible?

If you have a federal graduate or undergraduate student loan, who will be eligible for these reforms.

How will my monthly payments change?

If you make less than $30,500, or if you’re in a household of four with an income below $62,400, you will be given the option to make $0 monthly payments.

These reforms also cut payments for undergraduates in half — the new plan would require them to pay 5% of their discretionary income on their undergrad student loans, down from the current 10%. Borrowers who only have graduate school loans would continue to pay 10%, and borrowers who have both graduate and undergraduate loans would pay between 5 and 10%, based on average calculated from the share of loans borrower for undergraduate versus graduate studies.

When will I receive loan forgiveness on this plan?

According to the fact sheet, the department said it’s “concerned that borrowers with small balances are discouraged from using existing IDR plans – even if they would benefit from lower monthly payments – because of the length of time required to receive loan forgiveness.”

That’s why the department is proposing that borrowers who originally borrowed $12,000 or less will receive loan forgiveness after 10 years of payments. “Every additional $1,000 borrowed above that amount would add 1 year of monthly payments to the required time a borrower must pay before receiving forgiveness,” the fact sheet said.

The department estimated that 85% of community college borrowers would be debt-free after ten years of repayment with this change.

What’s the timeline for implementation?

These proposals will enter a 30-day public comment period, and senior administration officials told reporters that the department plans to implement them this year, alongside Biden’s plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt for federal borrowers (it’s currently headed to the Supreme Court on February 28).

Additionally, Congress did not increase funding for the Federal Student Aid office in its latest spending bill, suggesting hurdles to come with implementation of these reforms. The administration official said the department is disappointed with the lack of funding and notes that it will present a challenge.

What if I’m in default or delinquent on my loans?

The reforms are intended to help at-risk borrowers, as well. The department is proposing to automatically enroll borrowers who are at least 75 days behind on their payments into an IDR plan that would give them the lowest monthly payment. Borrowers already in default would also, for the first time, get access to an IDR plan.

Who is excluded?

Parents who took on PLUS loans — a type of federal student loan that allows a parent to borrow up to the full cost of attendance for their child’s education — are not included. A senior administration official told reporters on Monday that the Higher Education Act of 1965 does not allow parent PLUS loans to be repaid on an IDR plan, and the department is not making any changes to that law.

At this time, parent PLUS loan borrowers only have the income-contingent repayment plan — the most expensive type of plan — which requires them to pay 20% of their discretionary income for 25 years, and the remaining balance after that time period is forgiven.

Advocates lauded the proposed improvements but expressed disappointment with this exclusion. “It ignores the reality that low-income families—especially low-income families of color—are more likely to rely on Parent PLUS loans or need to get a graduate degree to earn the same salary as their wealthier white peers,” Persis Yu, deputy executive director of advocacy group Student Borrower Protection Center, said in a statement.

Indian Students Being Defrauded In Canada

India has expressed concern over the number of international students from the country being “defrauded” in Canada by recruitment agents who get them to join private universities with dubious track records.

“That’s a major issue we have to take a look at,” said Sanjay Kumar Verma, India’s new High Commissioner to Ottawa, told reporters on Thursday.

Verma called upon the community to flag such institutions, so that prospective students can be warned in advance against joining them.

He said that due to “factually incorrect narratives doing the rounds in India”, “impressionable” students coming from India get “duped.”

The issue, especially recruiters working on behalf of such private colleges, has been flagged in recent months, with several Indian students facing problems in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

Verma called upon the community to “share correct information with our students before they are recruited” and so they “check the credentials of the colleges they are planning to join carefully”.

Ravi Jain, co-founder of the Canadian Immigration Lawyers’ Association said that recruiters promise an easy path to permanent residency to students, Hindustan Times reported last week.

“Promises are being made that these students will be able to graduate and become permanent residents quite easily but again if you look at the number of international students coming in and the programme that typically services them, which is the Canadian Experience Class, there simply is not the room to be able to accommodate all of them,” he said.

This was also the conclusion of an investigation conducted by CBC News in October, which noted that “lured by the promise of a post-secondary education and a chance to build a life here, thousands of foreign students are coming every year and arriving to find what they were promised and what their families paid for often isn’t what awaits them”.

Verma said Canada offered “real educational opportunities”, pointing to the nearly 240,000 Indian students currently in the country, but warned against the negative impact of recruitment agents.

“We don’t want this story in any way to get stigmatsed,” he said.

Addressing other consular matters, Verma said that while the e-visa programme for Canadian nationals had resumed this month, there was no timeline to renewing the ten-year multiple entry tourist visa scheme which was suspended after the Covid outbreak in the spring of 2020.

Verma said such long-term visas remain suspended not cancelled and discussions were on “on all possibilities” related to their potential restoration. Alluding to the reinstatement of e-visas, he said, “We’ll be very glad if our host Government will consider giving similar facilities to Indian travelers coming to Canada. That will not only facilitate their travel, it will also facilitate the people-to-people relationship growing closer and stronger.”

As for the issue of the enormous backlog in the issuance of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards, he pointed to the burgeoning number of applications, which grew to 49,000 just this November alone, as against 26,000 for the same month last year.

Stalin Urges Tamils Across The World To Renew Links With Schools And Villages

Chief Minister M.K. Stalin has made an appeal to Tamils all over the world to renew their links with their villages and schools through the virtual pavilion introduced by the State government and contribute to the development of government schools.

“Even if you live in one corner of the world, your roots in Tamil Nadu and in your native place should be strengthened. It is an opportunity to pay back to the soil that nurtured you. Our children will emerge victorious and develop your organizations, villages, and corporate houses,” he said while launching the Namma School Foundation of the School Education Department in Chennai.

Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin has launched a ‘Namma School Foundation’ initiative to improve the infrastructure of state government-run schools. Notably, Stalin donated ₹5 lakh on his own for this purpose. “The funds will be judiciously used…in a transparent manner for the future of the children,” Stalin said, urging the Tamil diaspora worldwide to donate towards the cause.

Education is wealth that cannot be snatched by anyone, he said and asserted that the DMK government was creating such an asset for posterity. The Chief Minister appealed to philanthropists to contribute for the development of the schools.

“Every rupee given for the noble cause will be spent for the development of the schools, teachers, and students. The funds will be judiciously used and in a transparent manner for the future of the children,” the Chief Minister said and urged Tamils across the world to re-establish their links with their villages and schools through a virtual pavilion introduced by the State government and thereby contribute.

Venu Srinivasan, chairman emeritus of TVS company, is the chairperson of the foundation. Chess grandmaster Viswanathan Anand is its ambassador.

The Chief Minister facilitated actor Sivakumar, who along with his classmates, adopted a government school in Sulur.

Namma school portal and school virtual pavilion were also launched by the Chief Minister on the occasion.

Recalling the role played by the DMK leader K Anbazhagan on the occasion of his birth centenary today, Stalin said as Education Minister, Anbazhagan had made contribution to the field. “Today we named the Commissionerate of school education building at Nungambakkam here after Anbazhagan and launched the Namma School Foundation of the school education department coinciding with thes birth anniversary,” the Chief Minister said.

The foundation aims at bringing together communities and individuals who want to give back; corporates who wish to invest in and groom a new and aspiring generation to make government schools aspirational for all socio-economic classes thus delivering on the promise of equitable quality education.

The funds would be used to develop health and hygiene, nutrition, pedagogy, promote sports and culture, co-curricular activities and upskilling to equip the learners to face and triumph over the challenges of an increasingly modernised and transforming world.

In College Admissions, ‘Test-Optional’ Is The New Normal

Fewer than half of the students who applied early to college this fall submitted standardized test scores, according to an analysis by the nonprofit that publishes the Common Application. 

The data point could mark a watershed moment in admissions, college advisers say, when a pandemic pause in SAT and ACT testing requirements evolved into something more permanent. 

Just three years ago, 78 percent of applicants included test scores in their early Common App submissions, a round of admissions that ends Nov. 1.  

The share of applicants reporting SAT or ACT scores plunged in 2020, as COVID-19 shuttered testing sites and drove hundreds of colleges to adopt “test-optional” admissions.  

Many observers expected the testing requirement to return as restrictions lifted. It hasn’t. 

Picture : NYTimes

“We’ve actually seen an increase in the share of colleges on the Common App that don’t require a test score,” said Preston Magouirk, senior manager of research and analytics at Common App. 

More than 1,800 colleges are “test-optional” this year, including most elite public and private campuses, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, or FairTest.  

Common App data shows that only 4 percent of colleges require test scores for applications this fall, down from 55 percent in pre-pandemic 2019. The group includes a handful of technical universities and Florida’s state university system.  

Any number of schools could revert to requiring test scores. But admissions experts don’t believe they will.  

“I think it’s harder to go back,” said Jed Applerouth, founder of Applerouth Tutoring Services in Atlanta. “When you go test-optional, you have the freedom to build the class you want to build.” 

The test-optional movement began at Bowdoin College in Maine in 1970 and spread through academia, gaining traction in the 2000s amid concerns about equity. 

Not until the coronavirus pandemic, though, did a majority of applicants exercise the option to omit test scores from their Common Application requirements.  

College admission panels used to count on SAT and ACT scores as a way to compare students across schools. Sorting applicants by GPA or academic rigor can be tricky: An A in honors geometry may not mean the same thing from one school to another. 

The test-optional push follows relentless criticism that college-entrance exams favor the affluent, who can afford pricey test-prep classes, effectively paying for a higher score.  

A few colleges have rejected standardized tests altogether. California’s public university system, the nation’s largest, no longer accepts them. Elsewhere, most institutions have embraced the test-optional option.  

Experts see little downside. By accepting test scores but not requiring them, a selective college often finds that its SAT and ACT averages go up, because students with lower scores don’t submit them. 

Admission consultants say test-optional policies free an institution to enroll more economically disadvantaged students, or more affluent “full-pay” students, whose parents cover the full cost of attendance, all without regard to test scores.  

“If they want, they can increase diversity,” Applerouth said. “If they want, they can increase full-pay. Why would you give that up?” 

The leaders of FairTest and other equity advocates cheer the test-optional trend.  

“Any time spent preparing for the SAT or ACT is time spent not reading a novel, time not spent playing the guitar,” said Harry Feder, executive director of FairTest. “I think it’s a waste of kids’ energy and time.” 

For applicants, however, the test-optional era brings a host of new complexities.  

Applicants now face more decisions on the pros and cons of submitting scores to individual colleges. The choice can trigger a deep dive into a school’s test-score profile, admission statistics and philosophies on testing. 

“It’s a combination of multivariable calculus and reading tea leaves,” said Wendie Lubic, a partner in The College Lady, a Washington, D.C., consultancy.  

As a general rule, admission consultants encourage applicants to submit scores that fall near the SAT or ACT average for the target school: the higher, the better.  

College leaders promise to give every student a fair shake, test scores or no.  

“When we say we’re test-optional, we really mean we’re test-optional and don’t think twice when a student doesn’t submit test scores as part of their application,” said Jeff Allen, vice president for admission and financial aid at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota.  

Macalester officials decided to go test-optional shortly before the pandemic descended. A slim majority of Macalester applicants did not submit scores last fall, a quotient that suggests they accept the school’s pledge not to penalize the score-less.  

Yet, admission statistics suggest some other schools prefer applicants who post scores. 

Lubic, the consultant, cites Boston College. The school’s overall admission rate is 17 percent. Boston College is test-optional. Its website promises that students who do not submit scores will “receive full consideration” in admissions. But school policy also notes, somewhat ominously, that those who do not send scores “will have one less credential to be considered by the Admission Committee.” 

To Lubic, the numbers speak for themselves. For the current academic year, Boston College admitted 25 percent of applicants with test scores and 10 percent of those without. 

The University of Virginia provides another case study. In the last round of admissions, students without test scores made up 42 percent of applicants but only 26 percent of admissions. 

“Amherst, Barnard, Boston College, Boston University, you can see that they actively prefer scores,” Lubic said. “They have actually told people what the admit rate is for students who submit scores, and what the admit rate is for students who don’t submit scores.” The second number, she said, is invariably lower. 

“Right now, we’re in the middle of a swamp,” she said. “Nothing is confirmed.” 

Jessica, a mother in Richmond, Va., helped her daughter through the college admissions process last year. The daughter had a 4.8 weighted GPA and a 1390 SAT score. The family chose to submit scores to some schools but not to others, depending on each institution’s SAT average and apparent preference. 

The daughter gained admission to several colleges whose admission committees never saw her scores, including the honors program at the University of South Carolina, where she ultimately enrolled. The University of Virginia did see her scores — and put her on its waitlist. 

“That was a shocker,” said Jessica, who withheld her last name to discuss what remains a sensitive topic in her family.  

During the pandemic, when some students lacked access to testing, hundreds of colleges pledged to treat applicants the same with or without test scores.  

“That pledge has now expired,” Applerouth said.  

In a post-COVID world, he said, test-optional means a college considers an application complete without test scores. It does not necessarily mean the application is on equal footing with the others. 

“Academic rigor is optional,” Applerouth said. “Submitting robust AP scores is optional. Being student body president is optional. But optional does not mean without impact.” 

The retreat from required testing, especially in California, has lowered the stakes for students who take the tests. More than 1.7 million high school students in the class of 2022 took the SAT, up from 1.5 million in 2021, but down from 2.2 million in 2020, according to test publisher the College Board.  

On the future of standardized testing, “I think California will continue to drive a lot of the discussion,” said Jon Boeckenstedt, vice provost for enrollment management at Oregon State University.  

California’s university system dropped standardized tests from admissions in 2021, a dramatic step affecting several of the nation’s most prestigious public campuses

“I know College Board continues to campaign quietly in the state to get the public universities to reinstate the tests,” Boeckenstedt said. “And if they do, that would be a game changer.” 

Needhi Bhalla Chosen For 2022 ASCB Prize For Excellence In Inclusivity

Newswise — Needhi Bhalla, Professor of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental (MCD) Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), will receive the 2022 American Society for Cell Biology Prize for Excellence in Inclusivity award. ASCB will recognize Bhalla on Saturday, December 3, before the keynote of the Cell Bio 2022 meeting in Washington, DC. She also will write an essay to be published in Molecular Biology of the Cell (MBOC) and will receive $5,000 to use as she chooses. 

ASCB’s Prize for Excellence in Inclusivity recognizes a scientist with a strong track record of cell biology research who has demonstrated the importance of inclusion and diversity in science through mentoring, cultural change, outreach, or community service. The award is made possible by a Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant.

Susan Strome, Distinguished Professor in MCD Biology at UCSC, strongly recommended Bhalla for her research endeavors and high-impact diversity, equity, and inclusivity actions over the years. For example, Bhalla outlined an actionable plan in her 2019 MBoC Perspective, “Strategies to Improve Equity in Faculty Hiring.” She created an annotated bibliography on best practices for advancing faculty diversity at UCSA. She serves on the ASCB Council and advocates for including speakers from underrepresented groups. She’s also created equity and inclusivity professional development opportunities at the Gordon Research Conferences.

“(Needhi) is a leader in advocating for appropriate representation of underrepresented groups, and her voice is recognized and sought on the national stage,” Strome wrote in her letter of support.” She has been invited to give numerous ‘Diversity Outreach’ talks over the last few years and routinely includes discussion of (diversity, equity, and inclusion) issues in her research seminars. She maintains a library of equity-focused books and web links to share with others.”

However, social media may be one of Bhalla’s most prolific and impactful outreach platforms. Soni Lacefield, Professor of Biology at Indiana University, remarked in her recommendation letter: “(Needhi) uses Twitter to reach her 13,800 followers to provoke them into thinking about issues of equity and diversity. She points out issues of inequity and how they have hurt scientific progress. She comments on the equity and diversity literature. She calls out racist, sexist, and ableist behaviors. And, she gives concrete ideas on how to implement change. Personally, I have learned more about issues of equity and diversity through following her account than through any other means.”

A New York native, Bhalla earned a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College. She obtained her doctorate in Andrew Murray’s lab at the University of California, San Francisco, where she trained with Andrew Murray and studied how mitotic chromosomes segregate in budding yeast. During her postdoctoral training with Abby Dernburg in the E.O. Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, University of California, Berkeley, Bhalla identified a meiotic checkpoint that monitors whether chromosomes have synapsed correctly.

Currently, the Bhalla lab combines genetic and biochemical approaches with high-resolution microscopy and cytological techniques in the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans to understand better how chromosomes are partitioned correctly during sexual reproduction (meiosis) and development (mitosis). Having an incorrect number of chromosomes, also called aneuploidy, can lead to cancer, congenital disabilities, miscarriages, and infertility, underscoring the importance of this question to human health, Bhalla explained. 

“I have integrated equity into all aspects of my work at my university and in my scientific field, including research, teaching, and service,” Bhalla added. “I consider this work essential to improve the quality and application of research science.”

Foundational to all her research endeavors, Bhalla says she is “deeply committed to promoting equity in academic science, at the level of both trainees and faculty.”

“I’m excited and humbled to be recognized by ASCB and my cell biology colleagues for this important work,” Bhalla said. “Making science more equitable is essential to improve the quality and application of research science, and I hope this recognition encourages others to consider taking on this work too.”

Leela Prasad Elected VP, Academy Of Religion

Leela Prasad, professor of religious studies at Duke University, has been elected vice president of the American Academy of Religion (AAR).

The AAR is the flagship global organization of the academic study of religion and allied fields. Prasad will be the fourth Asian American woman and the third faculty member from Duke’s Department of Religious Studies to lead the AAR in its 113-year history. 

This leadership role puts Prasad in position to serve as president within two years. Prasad’s research focuses on the intersection of religious studies, anthropology, history and literature, with particular attention to South Asia. Prasad’s first book, “Poetics of Conduct: Narrative and Moral Being in a South Indian Town,” was awarded the “Best First Book in the History of Religions Prize” by the AAR.

Prasad’s research focuses on the intersection of religious studies, anthropology, history and literature, with particular attention to South Asia. Her first book, “Poetics of Conduct: Narrative and Moral Being in a South Indian Town,” explored how everyday stories, performance, and routine practices reveal ethical imagination and discourse. The book was awarded the “Best First Book in the History of Religions Prize” by the AAR.   

Her most recent book, “The Audacious Raconteur: Sovereignty and Storytelling in Colonial India” from Cornell University Press, used the oral narrations and writings of four Indians in colonial India to show how even under the most oppressive rule, storytellers and artists assert cultural independence and ultimately remain sovereign. 

The AAR is the flagship global organization of the academic study of religion and allied fields. Founded in 1909, it has more than 8,000 members from across North and South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Prasad will be the fourth Asian American woman and the third faculty member from Duke’s Department of Religious Studies to lead this organization in its 113-year history.

NRI Couple Donates US$1,22,380 For Women Entrepreneurship At BITS Pilani

Sethuraman, class of 1992, said he is indebted to the institution for shaping his professional life. ITS Pilani alumnus Raghu Sethuraman and his spouse, Aparna Thyagarajan, co-founder of Shobitam, a Seattle-based apparel brand have donated US$1,22,380 for women entrepreneurship at the institute.

According to an official statement, the amount will be used to develop a “Shobitam Centre for Women Entrepreneurship” (SCWE), which will strengthen startup ventures of women students across the BITS campuses. Additionally, the donation will also fund two scholarships each year for talented women leaders from the centre.

Picture : TheUNN

SCWE will also conduct events and programs to encourage entrepreneurial spirit in women, provide seed capital for promising ventures, access to cutting edge technology of industry experts and hands-on coaching  from a diverse set of stakeholders.

A graduate of the 1992 batch, Sethuraman currently serves as the chairman of the board, Shobitam and general manager at Azure, Microsoft. “I am indebted to BITS Pilani, an institution which has played a key role in shaping me personally and professionally. And it gives me great pleasure to be part of this unique initiative to create SCWE in collaboration with BITS, Pilani,” he said.

“Entrepreneurship is a mindset where the centre will create a conducive environment for women’s entrepreneurship to succeed with gender equality, build institutional capacity and develop  tools with support services for women entrepreneurs. SCWE will be a legacy builder, one that will have a lasting impact on the future generations,” he added.

BITS Pilani is a reputed institute in India well known for its entrepreneurial culture. The Alumni  is credited for founding 10 unicorns in India, including Swiggy, Groww, Eruditus, Ofbusiness, Bigbasket and more.

Vivekananda Yoga University (Vayu) In California Offers PhD Program In Yoga

Today, yoga, an ancient Indian science and philosophy, has been accepted as offering natural remedies for stress, health, the flexibility of organs, and general health maintenance. Newer forms of yoga such as Bollywood yoga and power yoga have come up. New courses to teach and learn yoga have been introduced by a number of educational institutions.

Vivekananda Yoga University (VaYU), the world’s 1st Yoga University outside India devoted to Yoga education and research, has now launched North America’s first PhD program in Yoga.  “This is a path-defining moment as VaYU students will fast-track the journey of taking yoga education and research to impact every corner of the world,” said Prof. Sree N. Sreenath, President, Vivekananda Yoga University. 

It was Vivekananda, the questioning and doubting philosopher, who brought Indian thought to the U.S. He saw the importance of self-control, of looking inward, and finding a root within. He saw knowledge of the philosophy and practices of yoga as important to achieve a balance between the mind and the body. According to the great Indian saint, Yoga is believed to have been the only way for people to deal with the modern world and achieve equanimity. He advocated a healthy body to house a healthy mind.

Picture : PR Newswire

Following his principles, the Vivekananda Yoga University (VaYU) established in Los Angeles, California offers yoga degree courses.

The first batch of 10 Doctoral (Ph.D) students from the USA, Canada, Qatar, France, and India have enrolled for Fall 2022. VaYU has introduced a separate MS-PhD for students committed to attaining the highest degree in the US. These mark fresh vistas of opportunity for VaYU specifically but to the spread of Yoga education in general.

The Ph.D. program at VaYU develops independent researchers to explore new vistas in the Theory and Philosophy of Yoga across all faiths and the therapeutical application of Yoga in particular management of cancers, neurological, digestive, and rheumatoid conditions. Prof. Murali Venkatrao, Vice Chairman of the VaYU Board of Trustees and VP of Academics at VaYU, explains, “Graduate programs at VaYU are founded on scientific methodology and are evidence-based. VaYU successfully graduated its first Online M.S. (Yoga) batch in June 2022. With our unique online curriculum and world-class faculty, we serve the seeker and the Yoga buff alike.”

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), the Accrediting agency that accredits Stanford University, the University of Southern California, and the University of California, has already cleared VaYU to move on to the final phase of accreditation, and the process should complete by next year.

Babubhai Gandhi, Chairman of the VaYU Board of Trustees and Founder, said, “All these mark VaYU’s rapid progress in shaping the future of yoga education. The world needs Yoga more than ever today and VaYU is preparing its graduates for that.”

VaYU was founded with the mission to create a yogic life path for the welfare of humanity and the vision to build a healthy and harmonious world through wholistic Yoga, and is waiting for final accreditation from the Accrediting agency Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), after receiving its clearance. WASC also accredits reputable universities on the West Coast of America. The doctoral degree program of VaYU is a serious study of the Science of Yoga, the Philosophy of Yoga, and the Therapeutic Practice of Yoga. 

Admission to the doctoral program requires a Master of Science degree in Yoga or equivalent. Like other regular doctoral programs, VaYU Ph.D. program takes between 3 to 5 years to complete and is divided in preparatory coursework, qualifier for advancement to candidacy, and submission of an original dissertation, all under the university research faculty.

The new Ph.D. program offers an in-depth study of not only the theory and philosophy of yoga but also its therapeutic applications in the management of physical ailments including cancers and neurological, digestive, and rheumatoid conditions. 

Vivekananda Yoga University’s Certificate program in Yoga is specially designed for healthcare professionals including physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, therapists and more. Photo courtesy Vivekananda Yoga University, California.

Founding Trustee and Chairman Babulal Gandhi has believed that the world needs yoga more than ever before and VaYU is meeting this need by preparing yoga professionals. President Prof. Sree N. Sreenath holds that the doctoral program with research and detailed study of yoga will create yoga professionals to impact every corner of the world. Prof. Murali Venkatrao, the Vice President of Academics, and Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the university, along with the faculty and the board, makes sure all graduate programs at VaYU are founded on scientific methodology and are evidence-based.

VaYU’s other programs include the M.S. (Yoga) which is a 21-month, four-semester, 30 credit Master in Science program, concentrating on both the theory and philosophy of yoga including Patanjali Yoga Sutras, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and modern day yoga practices and offers specializations in Philosophy, Yoga Therapy, and/or Research in their 4th semester.

The Diploma in Clinical Yoga Therapy is a 2-semester, 9-month-long diploma for working Healthcare Professionals including Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, Nurses, and Physical and Occupational Therapists in Clinical Yoga Therapy.

VaYU also offers a separate MS-PhD for ambitious students who can fast-track to the highest degree in the US.

VaYU collaborates with other educational institutes including the 36-year old Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (S-VYASA), India, a registered charitable institution working towards making yoga a socially relevant science; the Harvard medical school; the Asian Yoga Therapy Association; the Federation of Indian Physicians Association;  The International Association of Yoga Therapists; The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Stanford University UC Davis Medical Health; UCLA and more.

VaYU’s faculty includes well-known experts in the field of yoga and health. Faculty members also continue their research and publish regularly in academic journals. Noted faculty members include Research Director Prof. Manjunath Sharma, BNYS, PhD, DSc; UC Davis faculty Michelle L. Dossett, MD, PhD, MPH; Dist. Prof. in Clinical Cancer Prevention at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Lorenzo Cohen, PhD; MIT D-Lab & UMass Medical’s Richard Fletcher; Harvard Medical School Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, PhD; UCLA’s Helen Lavretsky;  Director of Global Outreach Programs at Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign, Anurag Mairal, PhD, MBA; Harvard Medical School’s Darshan Mehta, MD, MPH; Cardiologist, MIT LinQ and American Association of Yoga & Meditation’s Indranill Basu Ray, MD, DNB; UCLA’s Srinivasa Reddy; Retired Vasular Surgeon Dilip Sarkar and more.

Applications for the Spring 2023 semester are open, with the first day of classes being January 18, 2023. More information is available at https://VaYUusa.org. For further details, contact:  [email protected] or call +1 (747) 228-2987 to speak to an Admissions Counselor.

Sunil Kumar Named President Of Tufts University

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Johns Hopkins University, Sunil Kumar, has been appointed the next president of Tufts University.

According to Johns Hopkins, Dr Kumar “played a pivotal role in expanding interdivisional collaboration and learning opportunities across Johns Hopkins University over the past six years.”

Kumar, who joined Johns Hopkins in 2016, will begin his new role at Tufts on July 1. He was the first Asian American appointed to the position of president or provost at Johns Hopkins University.

Johns Hopkins University President Ron Daniels announced Kumar’s departure in a message to faculty, staff, and students, on Thursday, thanking Kumar for his “exceptional leadership and counsel, his tireless and bold drive for excellence in all aspects of our university, and for his humility and humor—all brought to bear in service of our great university.”

“It was clear from the beginning of Sunil’s tenure as provost that he would excel at Johns Hopkins due to his strong collaborative leadership, uncompromising commitment to excellence, and his dedication to enhancing the research enterprise and student experience at the university,” Daniels said. “At every turn, he has been a tremendous partner to me and to colleagues across the institution and made meaningful contributions that will be felt at Johns Hopkins for years to come.”

Kumar’s key accomplishments at JHU include supporting the completion of the first phase of Bloomberg Distinguished Professor appointments and helping lead the recent launch of research clusters to recruit the next 50 BDPs.

He was also instrumental in the university’s efforts to advance the goals outlined in the Second Roadmap on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Under his leadership, JHU launched the Fannie Gaston-Johansson Faculty of Excellence Program and welcomed the first cohort of the Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative, a $150 million program to open access to STEM PhDs to students from historically underrepresented groups.

The student experience has also been top-of-mind for Kumar, who worked closely with divisional leaders to implement the recommendations from the Second Commission on Undergraduate Education (CUE2), while overseeing the appointment of the university’s first vice provost for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer and creating the role of vice provost for student health and well-being.

Under Kumar’s leadership, the university began a new tradition to introduce every undergraduate student to the principles of academic freedom at a faculty panel discussion during Orientation. “Thanks to his trademark blend of intellect, approachability, and incomparable dry wit, Sunil holds the distinction of making that panel not only informative but also immensely popular with our students,” Daniels wrote.

Daniels’ message also celebrated Kumar as a passionate believer in the university’s potential to make a positive impact on society and lauded him as a key figure in the launch and early success of the SNF Agora Institute to promote civic engagement and strengthen democracy across the globe.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve as the university’s provost for more than six years,” Kumar said. “I have benefited tremendously from working with so many outstanding and dedicated colleagues, and I am especially grateful to President Daniels for his support and mentorship. While I will miss and appreciate my time at Johns Hopkins, I am excited about this next step for my wife, Sumati, and me in Boston. I look forward to cheering all that Johns Hopkins will accomplish in the years ahead.”

Prior to starting his service as the university’s 15th provost, Kumar served as dean of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and as a long-standing faculty member and academic dean at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Before joining Chicago Booth, Kumar was a faculty member for 14 years at Stanford, where he was Fred H. Merrill Professor of Operations, Information and Technology.

As senior associate dean, he oversaw Stanford’s MBA program and led faculty groups in marketing and organizational behavior. He won recognition for distinguished teaching three times and was named a Finmeccanica Faculty Scholar.

Kumar came to the study and teaching of management from an academic background in engineering; he earned a PhD in electrical and computer engineering in 1996 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Born in India, he graduated in 1990 from Mangalore University with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Two years later, he earned a Master of Engineering in systems science and automation from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.

“Dr. Kumar is an extremely accomplished university leader who impressed the presidential search committee with his devotion to diversity and inclusion within higher education, his commitment to building collaborative partnerships among faculty and students, and his strong belief in the power of the university to positively impact society,” Peter R. Dolan, chair of the Tufts board of trustees, wrote in a message to the Tufts community today. “He will bring to the Tufts presidency his experience as a leader of large and complex higher education institutions and his talent for building innovative programs while harnessing the strengths of the entire academic and administrative enterprise.”

Biden Administration Seeks Supreme Court Nod For Student Debt Plan

The Biden administration on Friday urged the Supreme Court to clear one of the legal obstacles blocking its student debt relief program, as part of the administration’s broader legal effort to have the policy reinstated.

The administration is currently fending off two separate rulings issued over the last two weeks that have effectively halted President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, which would give federal borrowers making less than $125,000 a year up to $10,000 debt relief.

In its Friday filing, the Department of Justice (DOJ), on behalf of the administration, urged the justices to lift a ruling issued Monday by the St. Louis-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit that halted the loan relief program, saying its current legal status has left “vulnerable borrowers in untenable limbo.”

“The [8th Circuit’s] injunction thus frustrates the government’s ability to respond to the harmful economic consequences of a devastating pandemic with the policies it has determined are necessary,” U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar told the justices.

Biden’s policy, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will cost about $400 billion over 30 years, has drawn numerous legal challenges. Its aim is to forgive up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for those making under $125,000 annually and up to $20,000 for recipients of Pell Grants, which assist students from lower-income families.

The administration’s move on Friday comes after a unanimous three-judge panel on the 8th Circuit halted Biden’s massive debt relief plan, which had already been blocked nationwide by a separate court ruling.

The panel, which comprised two Trump-appointed judges and one appointee of former President George W. Bush, said its order would remain in effect until further notice by the 8th Circuit or the Supreme Court.

The ruling was a win for six conservative-led states — Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina — that challenged the program on the grounds that they were harmed by a freeze on the collection of student loan payments and interest. The court’s six-page ruling singled out the impact on a large, Missouri-based holder of student loans called the Higher Education Loan Authority of the State of Missouri.

“The equities strongly favor an injunction considering the irreversible impact the Secretary’s debt forgiveness action would have as compared to the lack of harm an injunction would presently impose,” the panel wrote. “Among the considerations is the fact that collection of student loan payments as well as accrual of interest on student loans have both been suspended.”

The White House, for its part, maintains that its policy is authorized by a 2003 federal law known as the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act, which both the Trump and Biden administrations have drawn upon to alleviate student borrowers’ financial strain during the global pandemic.

In a related legal development last week, a Trump-appointed federal judge in Texas invalidated the program, saying the presidential action unlawfully encroached on Congress’s power. The Biden administration has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to halt that ruling while it mounts a formal appeal.

Several other similar challenges to Biden’s plan have so far proved unsuccessful. Among them were two cases that eventually sought emergency relief in the Supreme Court but were unilaterally rejected by Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

The Supreme Court may be more inclined to intervene now that the U.S. government is the party seeking relief and as courts across the country reach different conclusions about the program’s lawfulness.

The DOJ, in its Friday filing, told the justices they could choose to construe the government’s request as a formal petition for appeal and place it on a procedural fast-track.

The DOJ filing comes as student loan borrowers are anxiously awaiting for payments to restart at the beginning of 2023.

Advocates have been pressuring the Biden administration to extend the pause on payments, which began at the beginning of the pandemic, while the debt relief program is going through the courts.

Before the legal challenges, millions of borrowers applied for the debt relief through an application on the Department of Education’s website. Borrowers were told to apply before Tuesday in order to have a chance at their debt being forgiven before the payments began.

Since then, the applications have been taken down, and borrowers could have to wait months to get a final decision on the legality of the program from the courts.

The Washington Post previously reported talks were happening in the White House to extend the payment pause again due to the court challenges, despite Biden telling borrowers there would be no more extensions.

However, there has been no official word from the White House on the issue with only a month and a half left before payments resume. (Courtesy: The Hill)

Indian School of Business Hosts Global Event At Indian Consulate, New York

The Indian School of Business (ISB) in partnership with the Consulate General of India in New York hosted the concluding Indian School of Business @20 global event on November 18, 2022. Mr. Randhir Jaiswal, Consul General of India in New York spoke about the various phases seen in the growth of the Indian education system and the strong knowledge partnerships between India and USA. Professor Madan Pillutla, Dean, ISB shared a state of the School report.

Rajat Gupta, ISB’s Founding Chairman spoke of the challenges faced in the initial years and the support of various governments in moulding the course of ISB’s growth. Members of the ISB Board, Mr. Girish Reddy and Mr. Purnendu Chatterjee expressed ISB’s pride in its alumni and exhorted them to give back to the School in every way possible.

Picture : TheUNN

Established in 2001 with a vision to be a world-class, research-driven management education institution that creates leaders, the Indian School of Business (ISB) has come a long way in its two-decade journey. Throughout its journey, ISB has won numerous recognitions, launched several successful programs, and became an acknowledged leader in management research in the country. Many of its 13500 plus alumni now lead global companies and manageflourishing start-ups. ISB has 1000 plus alumni presence in the US.

Celebrating this milestone, ISB through a series of global and domestic events brought together various stakeholders who have played a role in ISB’s success. As India celebrates 75 years of Independence, ISB has partnered with the Consulate General of India, New York, USA to organize a celebratory event under the aegis of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.

As Chinese Students Become Less, Indians Expected To Fill Universities Across USA

India is up. China is down. Very few U.S. students studied abroad during the first year of the pandemic.  Those three points, in a nutshell, represent key findings from recent data released jointly on Nov. 14, 2022, by the U.S. Department of State and the Institute of International Education.

The “Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange” is published each year at the start of International Education Week. It provides detailed insights regarding study abroad and international students.

Most source countries see a growth in students heading to the U.S., including India sending 19% more students, due to steady decline in Chinese students studying in the U.S., its largest group of foreign students, has opened up opportunities for Indian students as the top global destination for higher education seeks to fill the gap in international enrolments since COVID-19.

Though students from nearly all source countries saw a growth in the number of foreign students in the U.S. for the first time since the pandemic during the 2021-2022 academic session, China was among the few exceptions.

For the second consecutive year, Chinese students in the U.S. saw a decline of 8.6% in 2021-2022 at 2.9 lakh students, according the Open Doors 2022 report on international students released on Monday and brought out by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The student numbers from China are the lowest since 2014-2015. In 2020-2021, China reported a decline of 14.8%.

Overall, in 2021-2022, there were a total 9.48 lakh international students in the U.S. — an improvement of 4% over the previous year when students from across the world reported a sharp decline due to travel restrictions during COVID-19. But international student enrolments continue to be behind pre-pandemic level (2019-2020) by 11.8%.

This year’s report shows a 91% decline in the total number of U.S. students who studied abroad during the 2020-2021 academic year. The pandemic also led colleges to develop more online global learning opportunities. In fact, 62% of colleges offered virtual internships with multinational companies, collaborative online coursework with students abroad and other experiences. While the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a 45.6% decline in new international students in 2020, the latest data, covering the 2021-2022 academic year, indicates that the total number of international students in the U.S. – 948,519 – has started to recover. This can be seen in a 3.8% increase over the 914,095 international students in the U.S. in 2020. Still, the number is well below the nearly 1.1 million international students reported in 2018. Much of the recent growth is driven by an increase in the number of new international students – 261,961 – which is up 80% over the 145,528 from 2020 but still 2.14% below the 267,712 from 2019.

Students from China and India comprise more than half – 52% – of all international students. That isn’t anything new, but what is noteworthy is that during the 2021-2022 academic year, Chinese student enrollment fell 9% and the number of Indian students increased by 19% over the prior year. This has big implications for international diversity at U.S. colleges. This is because Chinese students tend to enroll in a range of majors, while most Indian students – 66.4% – study in just a handful of programs: engineering, math and computer science.

China and India each have around 1.4 billion people, but by 2023 the United Nations predicts that India will overtake China as the world’s most populous country. This continued growth will further strain India’s higher education system, leading to more students pursuing advanced degrees abroad. At the same time, poor job prospects at home are driving many Indian students to pursue academic and career pathways that lead away from India. This is especially true in high-paying, high-growth fields like computers and information technology.

Other contributing factors to the increase from India include a change in tone on the part of the U.S. government. The Biden administration is working to reestablish the U.S. as a welcoming destination for international students by enacting reversals of Trump-era immigration policies. Those policies caused uncertainty and fear among international students. The Biden administration has also prioritized the processing of student visas in India.

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