Educating Gen Next
Gen Next helps U.S. universities develop their presence in India and provides guidance to Indian students who aspire to study in the United States.
Indian students considering studying in the United States usually have questions like which school should they attend? What will the culture be like? How does someone afford to study abroad? And so on.
Gen Next Education, Inc. strives to answer these questions through a free college counseling service for Indian students, and an innovative partnership system with some major U.S. universities.
Girish C. Ballolla, founder and chief executive officer of the Minnesota-based organization, says there are several difficulties in promoting the possibility of attending school in the United States, among Indians. “First and foremost, the culture of studying abroad, especially after high school, isn’t as prevalent in India as it should be,” he says, adding a lot of students aren’t aware of the feasibility of attending college in the United States. When students do consider studying abroad, they may receive conflicting information, or think they should attend only an Ivy League or “brand-name” institution. Another common issue is a lack of understanding about the differences between the U.S. and Indian educational systems.
“Students and their families approach U.S. education with an Indian education framework, and the resulting confusion can be detrimental to their experience,” says Ballolla. However, with guidance, the process becomes much less difficult.
“We do not have a financial motivation to ‘push’ a student to any particular university,” says Ballolla. Gen Next doesn’t charge universities any commission. Partner universities, instead, pay an annual fee to participate in its consortium. Gen Next’s American consortium partners include Rutgers University, The George Washington University, University of Delaware and The University of New Mexico, among others. Schools get year-round service in India, and both Gen Next and the high schools are able to provide students the information they seek about U.S. higher education.
“Our suite of services helps universities develop a brand in India and build a network around that brand,” says Ballolla. Gen Next also develops study programs, links faculty from both countries and re-engages alumni.
This model allows universities to have a physical presence in India, through Gen Next’s International Knowledge Center in Bengaluru and staff in Mumbai, New Delhi and Ahmedabad.
If I had to choose the best decision that I have taken in my life so far, it would be choosing to study for my master’s degree in the U.S., the land of opportunities for dreamers of tomorrow. I am immensely passionate about making a difference in this world in my own special way, and my master’s education is something that fuels my dream. I love the way education is imparted by professors, who are extremely passionate about what they do. I love how practical application of knowledge is given importance, in addition to theory. I hope to fulfill all my dreams in this awesome country.
—Aditi Mittal is pursuing a master’s degree in business analytics and information systems at the University of South Florida.
“In short, we are the ‘last mile connection’ between U.S. universities and the Indian educational ecosystem,” says Ballolla.
The organization came about through Ballolla’s own positive experiences studying abroad. “I was born and raised in India, and after high school, I decided to pursue an education in the U.S.,” he says. “The opportunity to explore my passions and discover my true calling in life was possible only because of the American educational system.”
Gen Next now plans to build on the foundation it has laid over the past seven years. In India, this will include growing its network of participating high schools which receive counseling and other services, as well as its new Association of College Counselors in India, an online training and networking platform. Its new College Exploratory Program will help high school students explore their U.S. college and career choices. College students can take part in short-term summer trips, where selected candidates travel to one of Gen Next’s partner institutions in the United States. Gen Next is also helping other institutions collaborate with U.S. schools.
In the United States, the organization is working on ways to enhance the reach of U.S. universities in India, and expanding to graduate recruiting. “Our Teach in India program has been very successful, and this year, we will launch a Nursing in India program, to provide nursing students a six-week international practicum in India,” says Ballolla.
He describes the opportunity to study abroad as a life-changing experience—one from which he personally benefitted.
“I would like more parents to realize what an incredible opportunity a global education is, particularly an education in the U.S.,” says Ballolla. “The advantage of having such an experience, both personally and professionally, is immeasurable. By encouraging their children to pursue an education abroad, they will be providing their children with a unique set of tools that will set them apart in the marketplace and make them more employable. I hope, through our work, we can change the paradigm of college education for Indian students.”
Candice Yacono is a magazine and newspaper writer based in southern California.