Extra fee row turns murkier as clueless govt gropes for answers

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Bangalore, August 1, 2013: Erring colleges warned, but given enough gaping holes to get around

The row over extra fee charged by engineering colleges became more ambiguous on Thursday as Minister for Higher Education, R V Deshpande, gave it a new spin of vagueness, by announcing guidelines that neither have clarity nor the approval of private managements.

Speaking to reporters, the minister said the government would take “serious action” against colleges that charged extra fee apart from the government prescribed fee. The government would not hesitate to disaffiliate such colleges, he declared.

The colleges have time till August 15 to upload the list of all students admitted and “all amounts” collected from them with break-up figures of item-wise sums. Each college has been asked to submit a certificate to the Department of Technical Education (DTE), declaring that the information given by it is accurate.

Besides, admissions at colleges will be approved only after the one-man committee headed by Prof S K Saidapur confirms that the fee charged is in accordance with the prescribed fee. The government’s promise on ending the row notwithstanding, it has not yet come up with the definition of “additional fee”. Its willingness to provide a solution to thousands of confused students remains unclear. On the one hand the minister warned erring colleges of disaffiliation, but on the other he announced guidelines which require institutions to give a break up of item-wise fee charged by them!

In addition, on defining “additional fee”, Deshpande said, “I cannot announce everything I have got up my sleeve. Leave it to us.”

‘No categories of colleges’

Higher Education officials on Thursday denied having categorise colleges based on infrastructure in order to fit them into different slabs of fee.

At a press conference in July, Principal Secretary Rajneesh Goel had announced, “Out of a total of 212 colleges, nine will be allowed to charge extra fees up to Rs 20,000; 15 can charge up to Rs 15,000 and the rest can collect up to Rs 10,000 extra.” The list of such colleges would be hosted on the KEA website soon, he had said.

Students complain how colleges demand extra fee quoting this list and each claims it falls under the higher fee slab. But Goel says now that such a decision was never made formal. “Have I ever spoken of it?” asked Deshpande.

In an official statement, the government did acknowledge the menace of exorbitant fee, but Deshpande hastened to add — the government cannot take cognisance of the problem without evidence. For this evidence, parents and students would have to register complaints with DTE. Anonymous complaints would not prompt the government’s action as it would not be sufficient evidence, the minister said. The officials have refused to specify students’ identity would be protected to ensure colleges do not harass them. While the government said students can complain to Prof Saidapur, it has not yet specified how the option can be used. “We will announce it (how to contact Prof Saidapur). We will open a website and he will also be available on Facebook,” Goel said.

No action

Regardless of its promises, the government has not yet taken any action on last year’s complaints. Even Higher Education officials, including Goel, acknowledged that the then Prof Venkataramaiah committee received more than 1,000 complaints. The government had also promised to refund parents the extra fee.

However, Venkataramaiah’s recommendations were kept aside and the government formed a new committee to deal with the issue.

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