MUMBAI: Deposit for membership to a doctor’s club, welfare fee, college kit charges, student association tariff and all such additional admission charges that inflate annual programmes fees can now not exceed twice the sum charged by a government college of the same kind.
The act of private professional colleges across the state that have been collecting fees under “innovative” heads “is unjust and smacks of profiteering”, the Fee Regulating Authority has said.
FRA has come down heavily on colleges charging additional fees and said taking deposits under various heads must be discouraged, reports Hemali Chhapia. The body pored over websites of colleges to find that caution money deposit was hefty, ranging anywhere from Rs 50,000 to Rs 4 lakh.
FRA: Omission of rules no reason to ‘fleece’ students
For instance, one college asked for Rs 1 lakh as deposit for membership to a doctor’s club. In another case, a medical school which got an approval of Rs 8 lakh as fee additionally charged Rs 5.8 lakh. “The college retains Rs 4.3 lakh without interest from each student over a period of 4.5 years. This is not just profiteering; it is fleecing,” said FRA members.
Whether MBBS, dental, ayurveda or nursing, FRA found several examples of private institutes charging various kinds of deposits. When FRA asked colleges to justify these additional charges received responses such as “the amount of caution money is decided by the management. It is towards the security of the college premises” or a rather blunt the “amount collected under head student association/ welfare activity is utilised for that purpose”.
FRA noted that schools, government and semi-government colleges and institutes also collect deposits but they are token or nominal amounts. “Collecting amounts of Rs 2-4 lakh from each student and retaining them till the completion of the course without paying an interest is another way of profiteering,” FRA observed. “While there are no specific rules either where under such acts can be justified, omission or absence of rules cannot be a licence to indulge in arbitrariness, placing a heavy financial burden on students.”
Some colleges also collect certain charges in cash. When a college submits its accounts to FRA which approves the annual fees chargeable to students, there are a total of 153 heads under which the entire student-related expenditure is claimed. That apart, there is a residuary head titled ‘any other expenses’. “Thus, any college has an unfettered choice to claim expenditure. That being so, there should not be any reason to artificially create different heads and thereby indulge in profiteering. The purpose of having one set of fees is to ensure that the entire expenditure incurred under whatever head undergoes scrutiny by the regulator to preclude the possibility of unjust gain.”