Weak currency increases sacrifice of parents with kids studying overseas


PETALING JAYA: Parents with children studying in the United States are feeling the weight of the plunging ringgit against the greenback, with some sacrificing luxuries and opting for cheaper alternatives.

A mother of two, known only as Liew, said she was planning to transfer her 21-year-old son, who was studying in Washington to a different American state with a more affordable cost of living.

"We are considering sending him to other states like Minnesota and Kentucky to finish his remaining two years of study.

"If we do that, we can save about US$10,000 (S$13,700). We didn't expect the ringgit to depreciate so much," she said yesterday.

Liew, a 58-year-old factory general manager, said she had sent her son to study computer engineering in the United States in 2012, when the ringgit was at a steady RM2.89 (S$1.08) against the US dollar.

"His education has taken up a big portion of our savings and now, we have to work harder," she said, adding that her family spent about US$60,000 (RM222,260) a year to fund her son's education.

A total of 6,822 students from Malaysia were studying in the US in the 2013-2014 academic year, according to the Institute of International Education.

The majority or 69.6 per cent were at the undergraduate level, while 17 per cent comprised graduate students, 11.6 per cent optional practical training and 1.8 per cent doing other courses.

Another parent, who wished to be known as Wong, said he had to forgo his plans to buy a new car because of the weakening ringgit.

"My son is currently studying engineering in Texas and the cost to fund his studies has increased. Just four months ago, things looked rosy.

"But now, we have to cut down on expenditure like family holidays," said the 56-year-old.

Wong, a manager in the oil and gas industry, said the additional costs were taxing as he had to support three other children.

Mechanical engineering student Justin Chan, who is studying at the Iowa State University, said he tried to cook at home more often instead of eating out to save money since the increase in the exchange rate.

"My parents most probably won't be attending my graduation in December if the exchange rate stays this high," said the 22-year-old who cut short his road trip in the US to save on expenses.

The ringgit is currently at an all-time low in six years since August 2009, opening at RM3.70 against the US dollar on Monday.