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The recent fee hike in IITs is indeed an additional burden on young shoulders who dream big. The root cause for the proposal of a fee hike in the IITs for the undergrad students from Rs. 90,000 to 2 lakh annually was the lurking uncertainty in the funds coming from the central government for years. Recently, funding from the centre to IIT Kanpur was slashed down from the required 261 crores to 175 crores. This hindered many developmental works like making new hostels which were either slowed down or were halted. So, a reasonable fee hike in the IITs is thought to bring about financial stability and autonomy to these institutions. But will the hike guarantee to improve the quality of education? No one really knows, as the motive behind the hike is certainly only to meet the uncertainty at the moment and address the maintenance costs, not necessarily to improve quality, though otherwise projected to be a side-effect of the hike. Let’s look at the facts a little more closely.

Free education does exist

If we observe European countries closely, education is mostly free over there because it’s seen as an investment – an investment in education brings good to the society; and it does. An obvious question always crops up in this context: how can Europe afford free education and we can’t? Is their small population helping them fund such initiatives? The answer may be yes, but partly. But we have many states in our country whose population is the same as some European countries, like Germany having almost the same population size as West Bengal, France almost same as Rajasthan, but sadly no state is even close to Tripura where education is free till 10+2. Overall, we have failed to emulate the European model in any state.

Vidya Lakshmi Scheme

To add to the burden, the plight of Indian students is that they have to pay higher interest rates on education loans than those available in the U.S. and the U.K.. However, for admission into the IITs, the government has proposed to provide an interest free loan through the ‘Vidya Lakshmi Scheme’. SC/ST/differently-abled students with family income less than 1 lakh are fee exempted, and families with an annual income less than 5 lakhs are exempted from two-thirds of the fee. But in a country like ours where only 4.5 % of the population are post-graduates, any hike is always detrimental. And if private institutes also hike their fees citing the fee hike in IITs, the situation for the student community and their families becomes extremely difficult.

Myth of fat pay to all

A fat pay package in crores for a few IITians is always in the news every year. But the median figures show that not everything is so rosy in reality. In the year 2014-15 the median salary of an IIT graduate was very modest. In IIT Madras itself, 41% of the graduates had to settle with a pay of 4-8 l.p.a., a figure many Indians would find hard to digest and 29% with a 8-12 lakh package. Median salary at IIT Bombay, IIT Kanpur and IIT Madras was 8.5, 9.5 and 10 lakhs respectively, if we don’t take into account the small fraction of international offers provided. So, a simple calculation shows that for a dual degree course for 5 years where one has to take a loan of around 15 lakhs (2 lakh for tuitions+hostel+other expenses annually) and for a 4-year course, one has to pay around 12 lakhs, which is pretty comparable to the fees paid by students joining private colleges and universities. But, when the salary is around 30,000-60,000 monthly as we see in stats from IIT Madras, and if we add the high cost of living index in cities and other untimely emergencies, the student is definitely forced to maintain a paltry life under the burden of these higher fees that have to be paid back.

Blow to brand IIT

Placements in pure sciences are not very lucrative in the beginning for most students, so pure science placements would suffer as most students would opt for other careers. Even if we compare the different engineering departments in any IIT, unemployment, underemployment and employment stats vary significantly. So taking the same hiked fees from all is unjustified, as the returns from a degree vary significantly. If we compare the older IITs with the new ones, the placement opportunities in older IITs are much higher than the newer ones, as the older ones have an established infrastructure, industry connections and a thriving alumni base. So, students joining new IITs are definitely at a bit of a loss. Moreover, owing to an already established infrastructure, why wouldn’t a student join NIT Trichy or Rourkela instead of taking a risk when joining IIT Mandi and the proposed IIT Kashmir? As a result, the brand name “IIT” gets a heavy blow in the process.

Repercussions of the hike

Students won’t dream of entrepreneurship in the beginning, as their biggest headache after passing out would be to repay their education loan. As per the report of the Review Committee of IITs (2004), 8% of the IIT alumni works in the social sector. But with a fee hike in the IITS, the number of students taking up the low paid social sectors jobs in the development sector and NGOs will definitely go down. As a result, the focus on social transformation will take a heavy beating.

Is a hike really required?

The number of seats available for undergraduate admission in 2016 is 9,784 for all IITs and ISM Dhanbad. So, a rough estimate would show that the total number in IITs presently is around 44,000 including the dual degree students, so the additional income from the hiked fees is roughly around 240 crores [22,000*(2,00,000-90,000)], considering 50% students are from the general category. When the budgetary allocation for higher education in this fiscal year is 27,000 crores rupees and we can dedicate resources to build a statue worth 2989 crores of Sardar Patel, this hike seems not just unnecessary, but highly unjustified.

What are your views on the fee hike in IITs? Let us know in the comments.

 

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