Fee reimbursement is indeed a great idea but any reimbursement any gift, any dana must be given in the context of the giver’s means or affordability, the recipients merits and if the giver is a public body like the government, the public good that the dana (like the fee reimbursement) will do.
The Constitution’s directive of universal education for children in the age group 6 to14 years to be attained within 10 years of the Constitution, that is, by January 1960 has not yet been fulfilled.
In our State the illiteracy is over 30%. There are a few million children in the 6 to 14 years age group who are not in school. Government is putting in valiant efforts to put all of them in school especially in view of the Right to Education act recently promulgated.
The first duty of the state should be to fulfill this primary duty of imparting universal education.
From the available resources for education, the first call shall be for universal primary education. The fee reimbursement for professional colleges, like engineering, is not the primary duty of the state.
Every available resource should first cater to impart primary and secondary education to all children of the state.
There are 650 engineering colleges with an intake capacity of about Rs. 2,50,000. It is universally recognized and accepted that most of these colleges don’t have enough number of teachers, especially well qualified ones. The teaching staff is of a poor standard. I have visited about 100 engineering colleges in our state in the last decade, many in the last few years. I put simple questions to students and to the teachers. I am sorry to state that neither many of teachers nor most of the students have any idea of the basic principles or fundamental concepts in science & engineering. No wonder that not more than 10% the so called engineering graduates from our state are employable.
Because of the huge intake capacity and the prospect of government reimbursement of fees for about 80% of students, students with very poor marks are entering the engineering colleges. Many of them are failing in the first semester examination. They are questioning as to when they got admission with poor marks, why should the college expect them to pass the first seminar exam? They have a good reason to ask. The mistake is that of those who prescribed the low entrance standards and the poor quality and inadequate number of teachers.
There is absolutely no possibility that our state can provide 2,50,00 jobs every year for these engineers. The country is producing about 700,000 engineers a year. There is no way in which all these engineers can be provided with jobs anywhere in this country, even with 8.5% annual GDP growth. There is of course a great market for engineers in the US and Europe. But most of our students with BE degree from the state and elsewhere cannot be employed by foreign companies operating abroad or within this country. We are therefore producing a large number of unemployable and unemployed engineering graduates.
Assuming that some are employable, what good are they going to return to the society, to the people of this state from whose taxes their education is to be supported? When many of them are not needed and more are not employable, what good the state and the public are going to derive from the expense of fee reimbursement without any discrimination or qualification or commitment on the part of the students.
It is not that the state is having surplus money and therefore can support the education of lakhs of engineering students. The state has got a heavy debt burden (of Rs. 1,10,000 crores). It is not able to execute event the most important Jala Yagnam projects within a bound time and costs are escalating. We seem to be following the principle: Rinam kritva, ghritam pibet
Take a loan and drink ghee -(the Telugu equivalent is appu chesi poppu koodu )
The difficult financial positions of the State has led to the reduction of intake from 6000 students per year to 3000 into the most well thought out RGIITs in Nuzividu, Basara and Idupulapai. Although these are rightly and deservedly meant to help the children of our rural population, the cut was imposed because of inadequate financial resources.
Amending the Scheme:
We can realize that government is in a difficult position because it has undertaken fee reimbursement and is finding itself in a great financial stringency. The measure may therefore be reformed in a manner which is least hurtful to us. I suggest to the following:
The fee reimbursement should be only for the really poor people. The poverty is to be ascertained not by the white ration card (lakhs of bogus cards had been identified) but by strict evidence publicly available and ascertainable. If the student is from a village, the Gram Panchayat in an open meeting should certify the property and income of the parent, to determine the degree of poverty. Family size, other earning members etc., must also be recorded . If an earning family cannot help, neither should the government .
The fee reimbursement should stop totally if a person fails in the semester exam.
The fee reimbursement should be treated as an interest -free loan . It may be repayable in two ways. (a) when called upon, the beneficiary should serve the government of the state wherever he is posted, in whatever job, (not necessarily engineering) he could be judged to perform, for say, 5 years.
The degree certificate must bear a note that the bearer has been given state assistance by way of fee reimbursement, an amount of Rs. XXXX for his graduate studies; the state has a first call on him for employment. If any private company employs him, government has a right to require the private company to pay the total fee reimbursement received by the degree holder, in say 5 annual installments. The private company should also inform the government of the fact of beneficiary’s employment with full details of the emoluments paid, address, place of work contact nos and so on.
If the beneficiary does not want to serve the government, then he should be required to refund after a 2-year moratorium the entire amount of reimbursement in installments, the number to be decided by the government.
As all the above stipulations are very difficult to enforce the simplest way is to create an Education Loan Fund and administer it through Nationalized Banks. It may have zero percent or nominal percent interest. The loan maybe disbursed in installments to the college after each semester provided the student passes the semester exam.
The problem of recovery of the loan is not totally and clearly solvable. It is analogous to the loans given to farmers. May be, the principle applied for waivers or rescheduling of farmer’s repayments maybe applied to the student educational loans.