Lakh of Money: The UG Fee Hike
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On the 8th of April 2016, the Ministry of Human Resource Development hiked the tuition fees of all IITs from Rs. 90,000 to Rs. 2,00,000 per year. It was later clarified that the fee hike would be applicable for new admissions from the 2016-17 session and not applicable to students already enrolled.
DETAILS OF THE HIKE
The press release stated “The rationale arises from the fact that the cost of maintenance of the IITs is to be met largely from the student fee. On an average, the Government is spending about Rs 6 lakh per year on each student in the IITs.”
The recommendations originally were for a hike up to Rs. 3,00,000 but the government considered hiking the fees to Rs. 2,00,000 (a 2.2 times increase from Rs. 90,000), with riders. The hike comes on the heels of an increase in the annual tuition fees from Rs 25,000 to Rs 90,000 (about a 3.6 times increase) in two steps- once in 2008 and then again in 2013.
The recommendation for the Fee Hike came from the Kakodkar Committee- headed by the eponymous Chairman of the Board of Governors of IIT-B and composed mostly of IIT alumni.
The students belonging to families with an annual income of less than Rs. 1 lakh will get a full fee waiver, along with those belonging to the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the differently abled. The students belonging to families with an annual income less than Rs. 5 lakh will be entitled to a waiver of two-thirds of the tuition fee, irrespective of their category. All students would also be able to avail interest free loans under the Vidyalakshmi Scheme of the Government.
So what mandated this Fee Hike? How substantial would it be in serving its purpose? And what would be the consequences of a 2.2 times increase in Tuition Fees? We take a closer look.
Let’s first look at the reasons that could have driven this Fee Hike:
Lack of funds with the IITs in recent times has been an open secret. It’s common knowledge that the budgets of all Councils and Departments of our Institute were recently slashed. A recent Insight article on Infrastructure also brought to light the infrastructural woes of the Institute. A dearth of money has ensured that this situation will not change, if the status quo is maintained.
It’s interesting to note that all IITs have been asked to use the increased influx of cash for infrastructure development so that the increased fee directly translates into better infrastructure for the students.
PLATEAUING GOVERNMENT SUBSIDY
The MHRD has mandated that it wants the cost of the maintenance of the IITs to be met largely from the fee paid by the students and not from the subsidy that it provides. The Dean of Academic Affairs (DoSA), in an interview to Insight, revealed that the grants from the government have plateaued in recent years.
ESTABLISHMENT OF NEW IITs
Within the past few years the number of IITs have ballooned- from 7 in 2007 to 23 in 2016. The DoSA conjectured that the plateauing government subsidy could be due to money being diverted to the newer IITs- blossoming institutes that need more economic investments than established ones.
AUTONOMY OF IITs
Being largely funded by the Government, the IITs are subjected to government regulations and audits. The Government has expressed a desire to make the IITs more autonomous- financially and administratively- so that they evolve into Institutions of global excellence. This can only be ensured when the IITs can themselves meet their financial needs substantially.
The Hike feels like a magical solution to a lot of problems affecting the IITs. Let’s then put the cash inflow in perspective.
A quick calculation reveals that the Hike would cause an annual additional inflow of approximately Rupees 10 crore. On the other hand, in the financial year 2014-15 the Institute had a budget deficit of about Rs. 143 crores, with expenditures exceeding Rs. 659 crores. While IIT Bombay received a grant exceeding Rs. 431 crores from the Government of India in the same year, the receipts from Student Fees were just a little over 29 crore.
The argument that this Fee Hike would substantially reduce the money crunch that the Institute is facing clearly rings hollow. The DoSA is also of the opinion that the new cash corpus would get completely exhausted after doling out money to the cash strapped bodies at the Institute and Department levels.
IMPACT AND REPERCUSSIONS
With the rationale behind the Hike and the cash inflow being put in perspective, an analysis of the impact of this policy decision is necessary.
CONTRACTING TALENT POOL
A concern that has been voiced is related to the case of the financially weaker prospective students. Someone who just passed school and cleared JEE would likely be unaware of the existing loan opportunities. The possibility of him/her enrolling in a different college just because (s)he would have to pay less fees, is cause for concern as it would lead to the IITs losing out on a significant talent pool.
A nuanced yet highly important repercussion of the disproportionate- across various “categories” of students- increase in the fees could be an increment in the social divide on campus. Intentionally or otherwise, the topic of fee hike would creep into everyday conversations and might lead to awkward situations, since some students have been exempted from the fee hike while others have not. Any casual remark could lead to long term feelings of discontent and alienation, damaging the very fabric of the Institute.
INCREASED INCLINATION TOWARDS LUCRATIVE JOBS
Acknowledging the fact that most of the students at IIT come from middle class families, these students with the potential to make an impact on various spheres of research, might end up darting for lucrative jobs because of a plump loan to pay off after graduation. For instance- a student after graduation might be inclined towards working in the core sector, or going for academic research- but on the contrary, a non-core job offering a juicy package might just get the better of him/her. Fee hike can drive the students to be more job-centric. This could result in an intellectual loss to the community.
IMPROVEMENT IN RESEARCH
The fact that none of the IITs feature in the top 150 of the QS World rankings has been a source of constant annoyance and befuddlement for the general public.
The IITs have incentives to improve their rankings, which depend to a large extent on the research output. With an increase in the funds of the institutes, combined with a chunk of them being directed towards research, it’s a safe bet to assume that the rankings of the Institutes would eventually improve.
IITs have always been renowned for their robust student culture. With a wide spectrum of extra-curricular activities, students’ clubs at IITs have benchmarked themselves as one of the best in the country. On the monetary front, while the money crunch of the Institute slashed budgets of all bodies, the fee hike has a potential to aggrandize- or at least maintain- the activities carried out by the student clubs.
One of the visible impacts of the fee hike could be bolstered up infrastructure, especially since the Government asked the IITs to focus on strengthening their infrastructure. However, with the DoSA stating that the cash inflow would go towards the budget of Institute Councils and Departments- infrastructure, at least at IIT-B, does not seem to be geared up for an overhaul anytime soon.
INCUBATION OF NEWER IITs
The newer IITs that have been mushrooming over the past couple of years can be subject to substantial growth with the amount of money kicking in on account of the fee hike. If they are able to replicate the pedagogy of the “older” IITs with the cash inflow, more campuses would naturally translate into better opportunities and access to education for everyone.
Vidya Lakshmi scheme
On 15 August, 2015, the “Vidya Lakshmi Portal Education Loan Scheme” was launched by the Finance ministry. This portal imparts a single window to students applying for loans or scholarship who now need to fill only one form. It also provides 22 different education loan schemes offered by 13 banks. The students have the advantage of applying to three banks at a time. Go to www.vidyalakshmi.co.in for more.
It is evident that the Fee Hike, in effect from this academic year, will have multidimensional consequences. The Hike, in its current form incorporates the waiver of fees for the economically backward, preserves a meritorious student’s right to quality high education but fails to account for the impact of the steep hike on the majority of students coming from the middle class families.
The impact of this Hike on the Institute will soon start to manifest itself, but it is clear that the concept of providing world class facilities at an extremely subsidised price, to a very small section of students is now over.
Scholarship facilities available to IITB students
a. Merit Cum Means Scholarship
Available to all undergraduates. There is a provision of Free Tuition Free along with a per month scholarship to students with gross parental income less than 4.5 lakhs.
b. Named Scholarships from the Dean ACR Office
Include both merit and means criterion for provision of scholarships, with the CPI of students and the gross parental income respectively being the factors of importance.
c. Central Sector Scholarship Schemes of Top Class Education for SCs and STs
Includes reimbursement of fees, lodging charges, books, stationery and computer costs. Available to applicants with parental income less than 4.5 lakhs per annum
For more details, visit the Academic Area in the Main Building.
This Just In
Recent developments indicate that the Government is likely to review the tuition fee hike, amid concerns expressed by some IITs that the revised structure may actually lead to a fall in revenue from fees. The IITs assert that the exemptions, coupled with the system of interest free loans, will further burden them. The HRD Ministry, in a note circulated to the IITs on 7th September, acknowledged the difficulties faced by IITs in view of the large number of exemptions given from payment of fees. It appears that there could be more changes in store for this batch of students soon.