New Delhi: A fourth-year student at the Mechanical Engineering Department of the Delhi Technological University (DTU) who preferred to remain anonymous has been battling a financial crisis since the lockdown to contain the COVID-19 pandemic was announced in late March.
His father, a daily-wage worker, lost his job during the lockdown and the student, who already has an education loan of more than Rs 4 lakh to repay, will either have to apply for another loan and complete the paperwork quickly, or drop out of college because he has only until August 5 to pay his final year college fee.
“I feel tense because we cannot escape this loan repayment cycle,” he told The Wire. “We are common people with families and we will soon be pressured to repay our loans. If I don’t get a job after my final year, I will be in a difficult position.”
The notice announcing the last date for the payment of fees was posted by the university administration very late, according to the student. The last date for the payment of fees was supposed to have been announced on July 24. Instead, the notice was posted on July 29, giving B.Tech students just about a week to raise the Rs 1.9 lakh they will require for the new college year.
Ram Kumar, a fourth-year student of computer engineering at DTU, has a story similar to the first student’s. “Before the lockdown, my family’s financial condition was fine,” he said. “But the lockdown affected us badly.”
Kumar’s father sold artificial jewellery in Delhi’s Sadar Bazar. When the lockdown was announced, the business collapsed. Given their financial disarray, Kumar’s parents decided to return to their village in Siddharth Nagar, Uttar Pradesh, while Kumar rented an apartment in Delhi so he could finish his degree.
With only three days left to submit their fees, the students of DTU have begun an agitation to demand concessions in the fees and an extension of the submission deadline.
“Why should we pay for the things we are not using at this time?” asked Kumar. “We are not using classrooms, labs, libraries, electricity, water, medical rooms and sports rooms. We are not using the bus service that the college provides for its students. Why should we pay a fee that has includes services we aren’t using now?”
What’s in the fee?
The notice that announced the final date for the submission of fees is dated July 24. It specifies that the fees for all BTech students, whether in the first year or the final year, is Rs 1,90,000 and the fees for students of Bachelors of Business Administration and BA (Honours) Economics is Rs 90,000.
There are fines to be paid if the fees are submitted late. If fees are paid between August 6 and 13, the fine is Rs 2,000. If they are paid between August 14 and 20, the fine is Rs 5,000. And if the fees are submitted between August 21 and 27, the fine is Rs 10,000.
If a student fails to submit her fee by August 27, the notice says, the student’s name will be struck off the university rolls.
The 2019 DTU fees break-up of costs, which is available with The Wire, shows that the cost of tuition for BTech students is only about half the total fee. The other components in the full fee include co-curricular activities, training and placement, extra-curricular activities, annual gathering, student welfare, institutional development, outsourcing, examination fee and so on.
Letter to vice chancellor
According to Mahip Bhardawaj, secretary of the Students’ Association Body of DTU, an elected body that represents the issues of DTU students, “We suddenly received a notice on the July 29, asking us to submit the fees within a week’s time. We get this notice every year, but we didn’t expect we would be asked to pay the fees so quickly this year because many people are financially suffering now. There is a pandemic. Since rules are being changed everywhere to adjust to the requirements of the pandemic, why shouldn’t the university also adjust its demands? Many students’ parents have lost their jobs and just cannot pay such a big amount in such a short time period.”
Bhardawaj, a fourth-year student of Information Technology at DTU, said the students are willing to pay the tuition fee and are only demanding an extension on the deadline. “We have spoken to the administration and they said they cannot relax the fee. They asked us to approach the government. We have done Twitter campaigns for the cause,” he said.
On August 1, the Students’ Association wrote an email to vice-chancellor Yogesh Singh asking for a fee concession and an extension of the deadline.
“We believe that paying such a high amount of fees on such short notice is not feasible for many of us considering the hardships which are being faced by our families due to the ongoing pandemic (sic),” the letter read. “The tuition fee is well justified but there is a need to look at the non-tuition fee component of our detailed fee structure, co-curricular activities, annual gatherings, extra-curricular activities, seminars, workshops, etc. These components will not be utilised in the present circumstances. Students should not be charged such heavy fees on ethical and moral grounds.”
The letter also speaks of the delay on the part of the university administration in putting up the notice. “Another issue that we want to bring to your notice is that the aforementioned fee payment notice was dated 24th July, 2020. The last date for paying the fees without any fine is 5th August, 2020. This notice was made available to the students on 30th of July. This gives us five days for the payment of such a huge amount. Out of these, three days are also bank holidays (sic).”
As of now, the student body is yet to receive a response to this letter.
DTU sticks to deadline
Anoop Lather, public relations officer of DTU, says the university will not extend the deadline for the payment of fees. However, he added, the administration will make exceptions for those students who are suffering financially.
“Everything – all the dates, whatever has been provided on the college website – we will go according to that,” he told The Wire. “If some students have some specific problems at the individual level, they can write to the dean or head of department and individual cases will always be considered compassionately. We take care of our students.”