If you are standing with a counselling form outside Anna University, it is almost certain you will be handed a pamphlet reading – “Secure your feature [sic] with world class facilities.”
The laminated images of computer labs and jam-packed classrooms tell you this is no marketing attempt for an insurance scheme or real estate and the list of nine branches of engineering makes things clear – it is an advertisement for a private engineering college, started a year ago, on OMR.
“If you register in the next five days, we can give you a discount in the fees. Laptops and drafters are free,” says the sales boy. He, along with seven others, have been canvassing for various colleges over the last month; two of these colleges began functioning only this year and one of these is yet to get accredited. We are targeting students with relatively lower marks. So now is the peak time for us,” he says
The advertisements are also pasted on the rear of buses. One poster publicises an institute in Kelambakkam with ‘IIT faculty’ and ‘AC labs.’ Students have to call a number to book their ‘free travel to the college.’ “A student who is just about eligible to get into a college has very few options. By offering some extra incentives, it is possible to get her to choose a particular college,” says the principal of a two-year-old private institution. The college management has already spent about five lakh for publicity.
“We are on the outskirts of the city so students of Chennai see us as an option. Computer centres and playgrounds have also been targeted,” he says.
A private college in Salem has asked ‘students to choose them because they have free canteen with hostels.’ “But we later found out their hostel fee is as high as Rs. 1 Lakh per year. They were even ready to arrange immediate transport when we enquired about it,” said a parent from Dharmapuri. Those distributing pamphlets have been asked to answer all queries of every parent who seems even remotely interested. “We have been asked to collect their phone numbers and we can help them get a bank loan too,” says a sales boy.
Some of these colleges offer over 20 per cent fee waiver to those who have scored above 80 per cent. Usually, high-scoring students would avoid such institutions but the colleges hope that such offers combined with incentives such as free laptops might attract students.
Students say that they had shared their phone numbers in a number of sites to get result updates, tips and counselling alerts. “Now, we get at least ten messages every day about colleges with ‘excellent’ facilities. We have not even heard of them and if they had such good facilities, wouldn’t students flock to them anyway,” asks a student. One such SMS sent by a not-so-well-known college says “Pay only tuition fees and get a seat under a Anna University college in Chennai.”
Even relatively popular colleges market themselves but through different media - TV and radio channels. “We know our seats will be full but we want to attract as many students as possible, especially for the management quota. So we have to be as visible as possible,” says a principal of a private college in Thandalam.
Keywords: engineering admission