IIT Fee Hike: Step in the Right Direction
The decision to hike annual fees from .₹ 90,000 to .₹ 2 lakh for the undergraduate programme at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) is a welcome step towards reducing its dependence on the government to meet recurring costs. The human resource development minister, who heads the decision-making IIT Council, carries forward the logic of expanding the IITs’ financial autonomy as had her predecessors in the UPA, who had raised the fee from .₹ 25,000 to .₹ 90,000 but baulked at accepting the Anil Kakodkar committee recommendation of 2011 to raise the fee to .₹ 2 lakh.
This will not keep out any eligible youngster either: the tuition is waived: in full for Scheduled Castes and Tribes, differently-abled, and those with annual family income of up to .₹ 1 lakh, and two-thirds for those with family incomes below .₹ 5 lakh. Up to 50% of the students will pay the enhanced tuition fees. Students admitted to IITs are guaranteed interest-free loans, and the bankability of the degree means a high approval rate with little or no collateral. The Australian model of deferred payments would be still better. In this, the fees are low for everyone but those who take up employment outside defined national priority areas have to pay additional fees, which make up for the subsidy, over a certain number of years. In the current Indian model, further innovation is possible to reduce the cost of educational loans for all disciplines.
The substantially higher tuition fee, however, is only a third or a fourth of the government’s actual expenditure on an undergraduate IIT student. The IITs must aggressively focus on getting endowments, alumni contributions and donations, and increased earnings from consultancy, research and patents if they are serious about financial autonomy.