The state government, desperate to wriggle out of the tuition fee reimbursement rigmarole, is contemplating establishing its own engineering colleges for students from downtrodden classes instead of reimbursing their their fees.
In the wake of the Supreme Court dismissing its plea for continuance of the existing differential fee structure for convener quota and management quota seats in professional colleges, the government is weighing the pros and cons of running its own engineering colleges to address the fee reimbursement issue.
The government has to bear an additional financial burden, almost double the present expenditure, if uniform fee structure is allowed for professional colleges as demanded by managements.
The government reimburses the fee of students of professional colleges whose parents’ annual income is below Rs 1 lakh. Currently, it is reimbursing the fees of as many as 1.40 lakh students who are pursuing courses like engineering, medicine and management.
Since more than 80 per cent students claim fee reimbursement, the financial burden on the government will be huge if uniform free structure is allowed.
This year the government has reimbursed a whopping Rs 4,000 crore to private engineering colleges towards fee reimbursement. According to officials, the government’s burden on fee reimbursement increases by Rs 500 crore each year.
For example, the government had reimbursed Rs 3,000 crorent two years ago, Rs 3,500 crore last year and Rs 4,000 crore this year.
Moreover, the court’s displeasure over the government’s intervention in the fee structure of private engineering colleges and its comment that it could run its own colleges if it had commitment to the welfare of poor students has made the cabinet committee on fee reimbursement thinking of recommending to the government establishment of engineering colleges exclusively for the poor.
“The government can set up engineering colleges in every Assembly constituency exclusively for poor students with modern facilities with the amount being paid to engineering colleges towards fee reimbursement for two years,” said a minister. The government will have to bear additional financial burden, almost double the present payments, towards fee reimbursement if uniform fee structure is allowed.
But the government can neither withdraw the scheme nor put a cap on the fee as any such step could damage the electoral prospects of the Congress.
If government sets up engineering colleges in every Assembly constituency to provide free education to poor students, it will yield electoral benefits for the Congress in the 2014 polls, some leaders feel.