IITs: Fee Enhancement for Exclusivity <

I have a reason to be happy, rather to be obliged to the Almighty. Coming from an insignificant family of farm holders in a remote Bihar’s village, my grandfather, a teacher by profession could dare to educate me in the best institutes such as Presidency College Calcutta, and IIT, Kharagpur. Perhaps, the credit should go the institutes too that had so little fees. I was going through the diaries of my grandfather. He used to send Rs 40 or Rs 50 by TMO to me in those days. My monthly expenditures (1957-1961 in IIT) were hardly Rs 100 or perhaps less. But that was a lot of money for him and the diaries mention of extreme difficulties to arrange it. I was really lucky to have my grandfather who looked after my every need in those days. He used to come to pick me from Kharagpur before vacations and to see me off to the nearest railway station, Uluberia while going to Kharagpur even at that age. He was working at Birlapur near Calcutta in those days.

I am happier today to see my three sons also graduating from engineering colleges. Rakesh went to IIT, Khargpur; Rajesh to BIT, Mesra; and Anand to NIT, Kurukshetra. I wonder how I managed it, as for some time at least two of them used to be in colleges. Perhaps, it was also because the institutes demanded very little money as fees. While Rakesh spent about Rs 500-600 per month, Rajesh managed in Rs 1000-1200, and Anand took Rs 1500 or so.

I got a shock of my life to read today the proposed increase of the fee of IITs today. The news carried some informative figure of interest too. I got emotionally inspired to make this personal entry that speak of my time.

The seven IITs charge an annual tuition fee ranging from Rs 21,000 to Rs 27,000, which is likely to go up to Rs 50,000 when the fresh 2008 batch enters these institutions. Since the inception of the IITs till about 1998, the annual fee in the IITs was Rs 500. “This fee was set by the ministry taking into account a formula – a third of the education cost must be borne by the students, another third should be earned by the IITs (through research, gifts and endowments) and the remaining must be subsidized by the government,” said P V Indiresan, a former director of IIT, Chennai. Then, in 1953, the cost of education at MIT was Rs 1,560 and it was Rs 1,420 at the Imperial College, London. The IIT fee was set at Rs 1,500 and students paid a third.

I don’t know how many of the middle-class families could afford it without resorting to bank loan that was neither available in our days nor I would have felt convenient even if it would have been possible. I wish, I were wrong in under-estimating the financial strengths of the middle class Indians at present time.

I personally feel IITs should not charge any fee from those who compete its extremely tough entrance tests because of their exceptional merits. The selected ones are certainly the cream of the country and they all deserve the waivers of the fees for their performance as award or reward of the central government, as IITs are central institutes. In a country where more than 6 lakh students join engineering courses in so many of its public and private engineering colleges, the government can certainly finance the education of its 4000 best students. And in return the nation may expect them to pay back by their ideas and means.

I am sure the directors of IITs could find better and innovative avenues for raising its resources and cutting down its wastages. One of that may be extensive involvement of the students with the paid projects in the industry. Alumni and industry can also come forward to create fund for the institutes as it happens in US.

With the IITs coming up in every state and perhaps very soon to every district quarter, as such the government is going to pull down its brand image. Are IITs trying to retain it by making it exclusive for elitists?

PS: TOI has expressed its view and a counterview has also appeared today on the issue of the exorbitant fee rise proposed by IITs.

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