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Students still aim for the States

Article - April 9, 2012
A degree from an American university remains the goal of Indonesia's brightest young people
A longtime destination of choice for Indonesians seeking a degree abroad, the United States now has to compete with other countries to attract foreign students.

But many bright young Indonesians still dream of gaining an American degree, and President Obama says he wants to double the number of Indonesians studying at U.S. colleges.

Prominent among Indonesian educational institutions that are eager to send students to study Stateside is the Putera Sampoerna Foundation. An independent social business institution, its mission is to educate bright but under-privileged children and prepare them to become the leaders that Indonesia needs for its future. More than 75 American universities were represented at a higher education fair in Jakarta last year that was co-sponsored by the Foundation and the U.S. Commercial Service.

“We are pretty much at the forefront of the U.S. Government’s attempts to attract students from Indonesia,” says leading businessman Putera Sampoerna, who founded the institution in 2001. “Providing students from emerging majority-Muslim nations with the opportunity to attain a quality tertiary education in the States so they can then return to work on the improvement of their home country is the best way to build upon and nurture sustainable relations that are mutually beneficial.”

In Indonesia, education is a luxury that many can not afford: around 1.5 million young people have to abandon their studies owing to financial difficulties every year, and only 18% of high school graduates can afford higher education.

“There is a lot of human potential we are missing out on,” says Mr. Sampoerna, who received his own university education in the States, and now runs four senior high schools, named Sampoerna Academy, and two colleges.

“We take the smartest of the smartest and we mold them so that they have leadership qualities, and can be the country's future leaders,” he says.