“My father owns a small business. For the last two months, he has not made a single penny due to the lockdown. How am I supposed to pay this hefty amount?” asked a fourth-year law student of a private university in Uttar Pradesh. Fearing reprisal, the student did not wish to be named.
Many students of Galgotias University, a private varsity in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, are faced with similar worries amid the coronavirus-induced lockdown. Students have been asked by the college administration to submit fees for the upcoming academic session in advance, with additional fees as charges.
Failing to do so will bar students from appearing in the end-semester examinations, which begin from July 1. A number of students confirmed to NewsClick that they would be unable to pay their fees due to the financial crisis owing to the lockdown.
“The university has asked us to submit fees in advance, however given the situation, the decision has taken a mental toll on us,” said a student. The first notice by the university administration for the final date for submission of fees was issued on May 7. It mentioned that the students needed to submit fees for the upcoming academic session (2020-21) on or before May 20.
To add to the students’ woes, the management issued another notification on May 15, directing certain students to pay additional fees. Students who had less than 75% attendance in any subject fall under the debarred category, resulting in a fine of Rs 2,300 (per course) to be paid to the college administration for them to be able to sit for examinations. A ‘backlog fee’, as its name suggests, is a fine a student has to pay to re-appear for an examination. The students have alleged that the demands of the university were “unjustified”.
“The fees for B.A. (LLB) in the university costs me Rs 1.10 lakh per year. This includes Rs 10,000 as exam fee, which I have already paid at the beginning of this session. Now, I have less than 75% attendance in two subjects, for which the university has fined me to the tune of Rs 4,600. Though I have already paid Rs 10,000 as examination fees, what is a ‘debarring fee’? Is this justified? It is nothing but a tool to extort money from the students,” the fourth year law student added.
After the notice was issued, WhatsApp groups of Galgotias University’s students were filled with requests to urge the management to take the current situation into consideration and give the students some time for submitting the fees. Concerned students, who primarily belong to modest backgrounds, also asked for a waiver of the additional fees. These students also took to social media to share their difficulties. Let down by the management, students are now raising their voices on Twitter.
On April 15, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), a regulatory body for colleges in India, issued guidelines asking engineering, management, architecture and pharmacy institutes not to compel students to pay fees during the lockdown. Students of Galgotias University have alleged that the fees notifications are a clear violation of these guidelines.
Due to the lockdown, most students are at their homes. The students are unable to gather to protest, however, protests do not go down well with the Galgotias University’s management. In 2017, the university had seen a similar backlash on the issue of additional fees. The protest ended with the rustication of students who had led them.
To apprise the management of the seriousness of the issue at hand, the students conducted a survey with a list of questions to concerned pupils. The survey asked students to put down their concerns on two specific matters; firstly, on paying fees before the upcoming academic session and about the difficulties faced by students in paying the additional fees.
Students from across courses participated in the survey, stating their concerns. However, the management does not appear to be listening. It is important to note that many of these have already paid Rs 10,000 as examination fee at the start of the ongoing academic session.
“This is a difficult time; our parents are dealing with salary cuts, small businesses are looking for government aid to restart activities and many people have become unemployed. Paying fees of such a nature is an additional burden that has been put on the students and their parents,” wrote one of the students in the application sent to the management, accessed by NewsClick.
The students' primary demand is a waiver of the “unjustified” additional fees. They are also asking the management to quash the deadline for submitting fees for the upcoming academic year until the lockdown is in place.
NewsClick reached out to Preeti Bajaj, Vice Chancellor of Galgotias University. However, calls and messages to Bajaj went unanswered.