The heavy burden of fees
The college prospectus used to be an authentic document regarding the fees to be paid. No longer. K. Ramachandran
RISING COSTS: Private colleges make engineering students pay beyond the fee structure fixed by the Government. Parents need to make provision for a lot of expenditure in addition to the fees prescribed. PHOTO: N. SRIDHARAN
As another set of about two lakh students in Tamil Nadu prepare for the next academic year's ordeal in the form of admissions, Education Plus takes a look at the possible costs involved in entering professional education.
Of course, professional education means, it is always engineering and medicine, plus para medical courses.
Very few institutions other than the government or aided colleges are really going to give you the break-up of the costs that students pay to get admission and study for four or five years.
Two years ago, the Justice A. Raman committee stated that for B.E/B.Tech programmes, the annual fee would be Rs.32,500 for any unaided engineering college. If the engineering college concerned runs a course accredited by the National Board of Accreditation, the fee could be around Rs.40,000 a year.
Colleges have been asking for more. For example, a set of colleges in Coimbatore and nearby districts attended a hearing of the A. Raman Committee and they presented their case for fixing the fee at a "more realistic level" at Rs.55,000 - Rs 60,000 a year.
But this is only for starters.
Students and parents need to know that a B.E/B.Tech student needs to spend another Rs.6000 plus for transport. Today, most of the colleges lie outside the city, so transport and food from the colleges are inevitable.
The food bill could be anywhere upwards of Rs.6,000. In the first year, at entry point a student has also to pay other fee such as those for affiliation, admissions, books, library, laboratory, caution deposits, association or club fee, charges for industry visits, and training. All these could add to another Rs.5,000 or more. Most of the colleges insist that their students wear shoes and formal dress. This means a spending of at least Rs.3,000 each year.
Students also prefer to take up add-on courses in foreign languages or some specialised IT courses or computing skills. Some colleges offer this free (read: hidden costs), while others charge Rs.1,000 or so a year.
Inevitably, the students end up paying anywhere close to Rs.70,000 or more on an average in the first year, and another Rs.60,000 for the next three years.
This does not include the costs students need to bear for attending seminars, workshops outside the colleges.
The basic fee for medical or dental courses ever year can be more than Rs.2.5 lakh, with add-ons similar to that in engineering courses, only a bit more in terms of deposits.
Para-medical courses cost Rs.1 lakh as basic fee every year.
College managements say that when everyone knew this reality, the government committees directed colleges to charge much less. This, they say, is the basic reason for their demanding captation fee on the sly. Sometimes, this is called building fund.
In some institutions, such as deemed universities, the managements have no qualms in demanding these rates for fee and even give receipts, saying that the fee charged by them cannot be regulated by any law, as long as they do not receive any aid from any government.
The principal of a Coimbatore-based college has this to say a point reiterated by many others in different parts of the State: In today's competition, the only way to retain good teaching talent is to pay high salaries, much more than the AICTE recommended pay scales.
R.S. Munirathnam who heads RMK Engineering College, Chennai, and M.V. Muthuramalingam of Velammal Engineering say that besides high pay packets, the biggest need is to make students more employable by multinationals. Even a moderate spend on good recruitment training costs Rs.40 lakhs a year.
Adding buildings or replenishing computing equipment are getting frightfully costlier.
At least a part of this should be borne by students, as management trusts can bear only a part of this spend that comes annually to over Rs.4 crores, they note.
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