IITs are the most prestigious engineering institutes of India. When they commenced in 1953, the annual fee for the flagship undergraduate programme was a mere Rs 500. The faculty, students and the staff members worked like a tight knit community. The students had the liberty to cater to their whims and fancies and there were instances of many students openly expressing their love for animals. One student travelled on a horse from the hostel to the lecture room while some students tried to procure an elephant from an underworld don for the entertainment programme.
The IIT campus in itself used to be a place to behold what with many trees, fewer concrete structures and discussions taking place over tea and Maggi. In comparison the today’s IITs are small towns in themselves with the campus population of approximately 15,000. In many of the IITs tiffs over parking space for four-wheelers are a matter of concern. Although most students want to ride on bikes when they take admission, they are told that the two-wheelers are banned.
All these developments have led the IITs to reason that the exponential rise in the population has led to an exorbitant increase in their expenses. In 2011, the Anil Kakodkar committee report concluded that the operational costs of IIT per student lies between 2.25 lakh and Rs 2.5 lakh. The committee suggested that the IITs should recover their operational costs entirely from the tuition fee. There was another committee headed by the IIT-Bombay director Devang Khakhar that later on recommended the hike to Rs 3 lakh and this was approved by the standing committee of the IIT Council.
As far as the recent past is concerned the IITs have revised their fees only thrice in 1998, 2008 and 2013. In 2008, the fees for the undergraduate courses was doubled from Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000 a year. In the words of an IIT director, “We are largely funded by the government and our own sources of funds are limited to about 18% of operating costs. We feel the fee hike will give us some additional funds that need to go towards this expansion.”
There are other factors also that come into the picture as far as the fees of IITs are concerned. About 22% of the students from the SC/ST category get a fee waiver. In addition 25% of the students whose annual parental income is less than 4.5 lakh get a fee waiver. A director noted,” In other words, about 48% of students will not face the pinch of the fee hike.”
However in the opinion of many students the fee hike is still quite steep. The increase of the fee to Rs 3 lakh would make it unaffordable for many students especially those whose parents are agriculturists. According to a student,” Even among general category students, quite a few are from the lower income strata.”
Another student explained that if the family income is Rs 6 lakh then the student cannot avail the waiver but shelling out 50% of the income for the education of one child would be tough. Although the SCIC has recommended that the loans be made available to the students, an IIT Madras student explained,” But a loan is after all a financial burden.”