Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Private engg colleges fleece students, collect excess fees

COIMBATORE: The burden of a college education is no longer the tuition fees - it's the amounts collected under various other heads such as hostel, mess, building development, lab, books, transport, language training and more. The government may have regulated tuition fees, but colleges have found a way around the ceiling by finding other services for which they charge students. In the last three weeks, students of at least five engineering colleges in Coimbatore district have blocked traffic and held protests against collection of excessive fees by their institutions.

The tuition fee fixed by the Tamil Nadu government for private engineering colleges is Rs 40,000 for students admitted through single-window counseling and Rs 70,000 for students admitted through management quota. Experts said charges for facilities such as hostel, mess, transport and books should be standardized as they are common across all institutions.

"Hostels are supposed to provide similar facilities across all engineering colleges. Guidelines can be framed to fix the fees with options such as air-conditioning, attached toilets and single or shared accommodation," said J P Gandhi, an educational consultant from Salem.

Some colleges say this may not work as there are differences across the state. "In Thanjavur, there is water scarcity unlike Erode and Coimbatore where there is enough water. So, we buy water tankers for our students at Sastra University. This is more expensive than the regular water supply," said Vaidhyasubramaniam S, dean, planning and development, Sastra University, Thanjavur.

Many private engineering colleges in Chennai have made it mandatory for the students to use college transport and have food from the canteen/mess. "This is an additional cost on the students and a way for the management to collect more fees," Vaidhyasubramanaim said.

A private college principal said, "Chennai is a big city and with colleges in the outskirts of the city, using public transport is not viable for all students." And, with colleges beginning classes at 8am, students travelling from North Chennai to OMR will be leaving home early, the principal said.

Book fees are not regulated either. "The syllabus and examination pattern are the same. Fixing book fees for colleges under Anna University should be easy," Gandhi said. While autonomous engineering colleges under Anna University can prescribe their own syllabus, books are the same. "So, at least a range can be fixed for the autonomous colleges," Gandhi said.

According to a senior professor of a private engineering college in Coimbatore, "Fees collected for placement and training, language training, coaching and 'other' fees should be regulated." Most companies that visit campuses for placement are software and services companies. "With requirement being almost same among a set of companies, such fees can also have guidelines. Though the companies are different, the training is almost the same," the professor said.

A student from Maharaja Institute of Technology who protested against the management for excess fee collection last week said, "The management collects 'other fees', but does not give us the break up. It is our right to know what we are paying for."

A student from Nehru Institute of Engineering and Technology said, "The college issues receipt for Rs 40,000, but there is no receipt for the excess 20,000 collected."

"We fixed the regulations in 2012-13. We have not formally received compliants of excess fee. We can take action and frame norms only on the basis of complaints," said a member of the fee regulation committee.

Extra cash

- Only tuition fee is regulated for private engineering colleges - Rs 40,000 for students admitted through single-window counselling and Rs 70,000 for management quota

- Some colleges charge extra fees for transport and food

- Despite having same syllabus and examination pattern, colleges collect different book fees

- Placement training fees vary as different agencies organise the training programme

- Infrastructure development, building fees, laboratory development are paid by students

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