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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tuition Hike in IITs

Anything IIT Council does is worthy of news, and yesterday's meeting has been covered by all newspapers. The headline, of course, is that the IIT Council has decided to increase the under-graduate tuition from 50,000 a year to 90,000 a year from the academic year 2013-14. The fee hike will be applicable only to students who are admitted now and will not affect the existing students. It is to be noted that tuition is paid only by about 50 percent of the under-graduate students. SC/ST students and all other students with annual parental income less than 4.5 lakh rupees will not pay tuition. (Note that I am just quoting from newspapers, and I do not have official Council minutes. In fact, they may not be available for several weeks.)

Of course, this will lead to a hue and cry about whether students with parental income more than 4.5 lakhs can afford it. What is the right model of funding and subsidy for education in top institutions. We will again have debates on how easy or difficult it is to get a bank loan. Whether there should be a mechanism of zero tuition now, but employer paying the education cost later, or higher tax on those who get such education, so that they can pay for education when they can afford it, and not now. And I ain't getting into all this right now.

However, I do not understand the point about exempting current students from a fee hike. It is often said that there is an unwritten contract that we will provide education at a certain cost. If there is one, then shouldn't that cover mess bill, electricity charges, and all other costs that the students have to bear. And is that unwritten contract only between students and government. Is there no unwritten contract between citizens and government. Shouldn't every citizen continue to get at least basic necessities like wheat and rice at the cost determined at the time when their parents decided to conceive. When Government raises price for LPG cylinder, it should be done so only for citizens born after a certain date.

But, of course, tuition will continue to be a small part of our budget, and this increase would not be even noticed in our balance sheet. In that sense, whatever government decides is fine. In the next financial year, IIT Kanpur will have about 830 under-graduate students, out of which about 430 students will pay this increased tuition. So we get an additional Rs. 1.7 crores. With an overall budget of at least Rs. 350 crores, this will hardly make a big difference.