New Delhi: With Covid cases continuing to surge across the country, several higher educational institutions have resorted to online classes for its students. However, though classes are being held virtually, many colleges are demanding payment of full fees, which include infrastructural costs that the students are not currently accessing.
As a result, students from several of these colleges are now refusing to pay the entire fees.
Students from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University (GGSIPU) in Delhi, Delhi Technological University (DTU) and Dehradun-based University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES) are among those who have raised this issue.
In India, schools and colleges have been shut since March, when the lockdown to arrest the spread of the novel coronavirus was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Even though several restrictions have been lifted under ‘Unlock 3’ initiated this month, educational institutions have been directed to remain shut till 31 August.
However, even tough uncertainty continues regarding the reopening of these institutes, some colleges have sent circulars asking students to clear their fees.
GGSIPU asks students to pay Rs 1 lakh per year
The Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies (VIPS), affiliated to GGSIPU, sent a circular to its students demanding that they pay their complete fees, which could be anywhere between Rs 85,000 and Rs 1 lakh per year, two weeks ago.
In protest, the students sent several emails to the Ministry of Education, the University Grant Commission (UGC), Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Delhi Education Minister Manish Sisodia, demanding a reduction in the fees. The latest email was sent on 7 August.
The letter, accessed by ThePrint, read, “Amidst this grave pandemic, this fees (collection) is an unsympathetic and violent move towards the students and their families.”
Around 125 colleges are affiliated to GGSIPU, which comes under the Delhi government and has more than 1 lakh students.
According to Ankur Upreti, a student at VIPS, “The issue affects everyone in GGSIPU because the fee is almost the same everywhere.”
The letter also highlights the fact that students cannot physically access campuses or any of the infrastructure or equipment that is available in college, adding that it makes no sense for them to pay for these facilities.
Instead, the students have demanded that all ancillary costs be removed and only the tuition and exam fees charged for this semester.
An official from the university, who did not wish to be named, told ThePrint, “The Delhi State Fee Regulatory Committee is the body concerned for these things and we at the university cannot do anything.”
However, he added, “The demand is genuine and in such a grave economic situation, students and their families should be given some relief.”
IIMC charging old fee for online-only semester
Students at Delhi Technological University (DTU) have even been issued an ultimatum that they would not be allowed to sit for placements if they did not pay their fees.
Undergraduate students’ fees at DTU, who make up 80 per cent of the university’s student population, range from Rs 90,000 for BBA to Rs 1,90,000 for B.Tech.
According to a notice issued to them in late July, non-payment of fees will fetch a fine ranging from Rs 2,000 to 10,000 till 27 August.
Apurnendu Tripathi, president of the DTU wing of RSS-affiliate Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), told ThePrint, “The only activity right now is online classes for which all the expenses including laptop, electricity and the internet are borne by the students. Why should they pay anything other than the tuition and the exam fees?”
According to the university’s public relations officer Anoop Lather, it will not make much of a difference if only tuition and exam fees are collected from the students.
However, Tripathi said if the university only collects the tuition and exam fees, it will lead to a reduction of at least Rs 40,000 from the principle amount.
Even those colleges that have announced that they will be conducting an entire semester online are demanding regular fees.
The Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), which comes under the Ministry of Information and Broadcast, announced that the first semester of all the two-semester postgraduate diploma courses will be conducted online.
A student, who has applied to the institute, said, “We will have to do everything online for a practical course like journalism. We won’t even be able to see the campus in the first semester. Why should we pay anything other than the tuition fees?”
UPES students’ online protest against high fees
Several students are also taking these demands online.
Students from the Dehradun-based University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES) tweeted about the university’s exorbitant fees.
According to several tweets, the university is demanding almost Rs 2 lakh as fees for one semester.
Lodge a formal complaint today against @UPESDehradun directly with @ukcmo via https://t.co/0fkP6gDR26 for offering NO CONCESSION on indefinitely suspended & unavailed campus services and DEMANDING Rs. 2,00,000 from students for just ONE SEMESTER amidst a pandemic. #UPESFEES
— 🙍🏻♀️ (@diurnaldebacle) August 7, 2020
What "Other Academic Service Fee", @UPESDehradun? Are we talking about technologically inept professors who are unable to successfully host even one online lecture on your third-party classroom app with an inconvenient interface? Delayed grade cards? Inactive helplines? #UPESFEES pic.twitter.com/wzSo6Jo7cI
— 🙍🏻♀️ (@diurnaldebacle) August 8, 2020
The fear of fee hike is also palpable in universities that don’t have hefty fees.
The Jawaharlal Nehru University gets grants from the UGC and therefore has subsidised fees.
However, according to JNU Students Union president Aishe Ghosh, the university administration has taken a loan from the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) — a joint venture between the government and Canara Bank to finance educational institutions — and thus, there are fears it will lead to a fee hike.
According to a senior official in the Delhi education department, the maintenance of facilities and resources requires funds even if students are not using them.
ThePrint reached officials at the Ministry of Education and the UGC through text messages and calls for a comment but they did not respond. This report will be updated if any response is received.