Disputes abound over proposed Fee Hike

The College Governing Body of St. Stephen’s College ratified the recommendations of the College Finance Committee which suggested a 40%- 57% increase in the fees, with effect from the current academic session, 2009-10. This move by the governing body has met with stiff resistance from several students, who consider the steep hike highly unwarranted.

The students have chosen to make a visible protest against the hike in fees by sporting black arm bands. A Third year student of the college says, “The magnitude of the fee hike is the problem here. A 10-15% increase in the fees would have been reasonable, but a 50% fee hike is outrageous. This may not affect the majority of the students, but we also need to keep in mind the people who will be seriously affected. We have to consider the students who will not be able to pay the raised fees and so we must protest against this unfair step.”

However, some teachers choose to take a different stand on the issue. Mr. Shankaran, a professor in the college says, “Several colleges like Khalsa College and Sri Vivekananda College have external funding from their respective affiliated institutions. However, the church which we are affiliated to, the Church of North India, does not provide us with funds. We are running a huge deficit and the situation is so bad, that we do not have enough funds to maintain day-to-day activities. We need to increase the fee so that the college can run smoothly and the infrastructure of the college can be maintained.”

Several representatives of students have had meetings with the bursar and the principal in order to clarify the reasons behind the fee hike and request them to reduce the amount incremented. The Bursar, Mr. Raghunathan, has therefore circulated a written explanation among the students giving reasons as to why the fee hike is justified.

The circular says that the increase in the fee is required simply because over the years costs have gone up while the fee has remained unchanged. The circular cites the example of the increasing price of books for the library, thus necessitating an increase in the library fee. Costs of scientific equipment too have seen a rise, resulting in a hike in the ‘Science Facility fee’. The ‘Student Aid Fund’ to help needy students has also been augmented while a ‘Development fund’ has been set up to help in the acquisition of more lecture and tutorial rooms and better laboratory facilities. The ‘Residence Fund’ of the college which is used to pay for salaries of the garden staff, security staff and mess staff and which is not covered by the UGC grant is also suffering a deficit which needs to be addressed. Moreover, the college has to pay the arrears of salary according to the VI th Pay Commission’s recommendations.

All this results in the minimum anticipated deficit to be over Rs 45 Lakhs and the situation is only expected to worsen during the course of this academic session. Says the bursar, “If the University undergraduate tuition fee is raised to Rs 100 a month, you can either choose to look upon it as a more reasonable amount than the original laughably small sum of Rs 15 per month, or you can choose to see it as more than a 600% fee hike. So what one needs to think of is the resulting total, rather than the amount by which the fee has been increased.”

Some students agree with the bursar. A Second year student says, “I don’t mind the increase in the fee since DU fees are in any case ridiculously low and moreover most kids are easily capable of paying the new fee, even if it means making a tiny compromise in the shopping department.”