Where will we get money? Students’ dreams shatter as SC hikes self-financing college fees

The Kerala HC had allowed the government to set a cap of Rs 5 lakh on the annual fee, but three days ago the SC hiked it to Rs 11 lakh.
Where will we get money? Students’ dreams shatter as SC hikes self-financing college fees
Where will we get money? Students’ dreams shatter as SC hikes self-financing college fees
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The Thiruvananthapuram Medical College has become a site of despair and heartbreak for three days now, as several aspiring doctors have seen their MBBS dreams fall to dust.

Numerous students who had sought admission in Kerala’s self-financing medical colleges have been forced to cancel their admissions, after the annual fees were hiked to more than double by the Supreme Court three days ago.

On August 28, the Supreme Court issued an interim order overturning a Kerala HC verdict that had allowed the government to fix a cap of Rs 5 lakh on the annual fee for MBBS courses in self-financing colleges. The apex court, instead, fixed the fee at Rs 11 lakh.

Of this amount, Rs 5 lakh has to be remitted in cash, while the remaining Rs 6 lakh is to be paid in cash or with a bank guarantee to be submitted within 15 days of admission.

The SC ordered that the bank guarantees be deposited in a separate bank account until the fee structure is finally determined by a Fee Regulation Commission, which is likely to be completed by October.

The announcement of an additional amount of Rs 6 lakh has turned into an insurmountable obstacle for many students, whose families have already borrowed Rs 5 lakh from banks and private money lenders.

“My father is a farmer. We can never think of spending Rs 65 lakh rupees for five years. It was my dream to do the MBBS, and I secured a rank below 2500 without doing any coaching. Now my father has asked me to forget my dream as he cannot earn so much money in his entire lifetime,” says Sreejith a student from Kannur.

Many other students, facing a similar plight, have now decided to study outside Kerala or to opt for other professional courses. Niranjana, a student from Kozhikode district, secured a rank in the 2300s, but has decided to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in either Ayurveda, Medicine and Surgery or in Homoeopathic Medicine and Surgery because her family cannot raise the extra Rs 6 lakh.

“We had already borrowed money from private lenders thinking that the fees would be Rs 5 lakh. Now it is RS 11 lakh. I have no hope that the amount will be reduced by the fee regulation commission. This huge amount cannot be managed. So, I have decided to take up some other course,” she says.

Following a massive protest by parents and students outside the admission centre on Wednesday, the government announced that it would assist students with financial difficulties in obtaining bank guarantees.

“The government will ensure all help to the students to tackle the issue. Nobody should cancel admission just because of the bank guarantee. We will also provide scholarships to a majority of poor students. We cannot offer bank guarantees to all students, but we will offer financial support to poor students to secure the bank guarantee. There are many students who can pay the amount,” Health Minister KK Shailaja told media.

Chief Secretary KM Abraham conducted a meeting on Wednesday with officials of various banks to work out an arrangement regarding the bank guarantees.

“We have received a good response from the banks. The Cabinet has also decided certain norms for cooperating with the banks. We have been discussing this issue for the last two days. Whatever we have decided will be beneficial for students. More details will be available only after a government order is released,” he told the media.

However, students and parents are still afraid that the Fee Regulation Commission is not likely to reduce the fee below the level decided by the Supreme Court. If that’s the case, they say a single loan from banks wouldn’t be of much use, they say.

Four colleges under the Kerala Christian Professional College Management Association, as well as the Pariyaram Medical College have announced that they will stick to the fee structure fixed last year, charging only Rs 5 lakh. Besides these, the Kannur Medical College and the Karuna Medical College in Palakkad, have announced that they will not be insisting on the bank guarantee.

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