After a harrowing time last year, a section of engineering colleges is gearing up to demand the abolition of the State Government’s “poor and meritorious quota” scheme and introduce an increase in government quota fees.

College managements, particularly those considered tier-II, say their demands are a result of having to combat increased costs, low intake and the burden of having to provide newly introduced subsidies.

Sources in private engineering colleges, who spoke on condition of anonymity, maintained that if the current system prevails, as many as six or seven colleges in Bangalore will be forced to shut shop. Colleges in the State have had to suffer losses to the extent of Rs. 3 crore, said K.B. Munivenkatareddy, vice-president of the Forum of Unaided Private Engineering Colleges.

College managements want the government to pay up for its own subsidy schemes. Since 2009, students coming under the “poor and meritorious” quota have been offered a fee subsidy of Rs. 10,000, occupying 25 per cent of the seats. This subsidy that was offered in return for a greater share of seats which later found no takers, hit tier-II colleges hard. In some colleges, 20 of the 30 seats that were filled of a total class strength of 60 came under the “poor and meritorious” category, said a college official. “How then can our college expect to survive?” the official asked.

Colleges in smaller cities, even those that are 10 or 15 years old, ran at 50 per cent class strength in the first year batch of 2009. “Simply signing a deal will not do. The State Government must sit with academics and find a way to solve our problems,” Mr. Munivenkatareddy said.

Affluent colleges too

To make matters worse, private engineering colleges are bitterly divided on the admission policy for 2010. While top colleges, which were able to fill seats to capacity last year, are largely content with the current admission structure, others are demanding a complete revamp in admission policy.

While tier-II colleges feel that their interests are ill-represented, managements of top colleges too feel that the current fee structure is unaffordable. The AICTE pay scales, recommended by the Sixth Pay Commission, will hike teacher salaries by as much as 60 per cent, points out Panduranga Shetty, president of the Karnataka Unaided Private Engineering Colleges’ Association, another engineering college association.

Mr. Shetty feels that there is “pointless debate” on whether there should be one entrance test or two, when the crux of the issue lies in the economics of it all. “People are shying away from talking about it. But the real question for all colleges, irrespective of status, is where will we find money to run colleges?” he asks. Though the upper fee limit is set at Rs. 1.25 lakh, only a handful of colleges are able to charge such a high fee.