MBBS course in a private college in Tamil Nadu costs Rs. 45 lakh, excluding hostel fee

Students aspiring for a medical seat have, by now, a fair idea which slot they will fit into. Those unable to get into a government medical college are looking at private self financing medical colleges – and their government quota or management quota seats. And their parents have started looking furtively at their savings, and getting application forms for bank loans.

Getting into a self-financing medical college means a huge financial outflow for the family. The sums involved will have a middle class family tussling with every known and unknown source of income. Beginning with capitation fees (for management quota seats) and going on to the annual spending for the next five and a half years, it is going to be a very expensive haul.

Every year, it gets a little more expensive. This year, the going rates in Tamil Nadu are: capitation fees Rs. 45 lakh to Rs. 80 lakh; annual fees Rs. 5.5 lakh to Rs. 9 lakh.

In comparison, the cost of education in a government medical college is not in excess of Rs 12,000 per annum.

This, despite the existence of a committee to regulate fees in the State! The Justice Balasubramanian Committee fixes the fees for private self-financing medical colleges in the State every year and the colleges are bound to follow these rules. Last year, the committee fixed the fees at Rs. 2.5 lakh. This year, the fee is supposed to have been raised by Rs. 10,000. “But the committee only fixes the tuition fee,” explains a parent, whose daughter has landed a seat under the state quota of a private medical college in the city.

“The college specifies that sum as tuition fees, but over and above that, they charge other fees, under heads such as infrastructure, lab fees, and uniform. The receipt is only for the legitimate sum of Rs. 2.6 lakh and Rs. 75,000 towards hostel expenses. My expense, however, is upwards of Rs. 4.5 lakh,” he laments.

And therein lies a big problem. Many parents depend on a bank loan to cough up the fees. “If they give a receipt only for the basal sum of Rs. 2.6 lakh, the family has to somehow mop up the remaining amount of nearly Rs. 2 lakh,” says J.P. Gandhi, educationist.

In rich families, it is not a problem, but there are many students in these colleges whose families have saved for their education, and their nest egg has fallen far short of these charges.

“Banks want to know the commitment for the next five years. But the college prospectus only mentions the “legal fees” and loans are sanctioned accordingly,” he explains.

Coming up with Rs. 2 lakh every year for five years is very tough for most middle class households. “Many parents who come for a consult say they have to pledge their property or take personal loans. Some have even borrowed from money lenders at exorbitant interest rates,” he said.

In government medical colleges, one needs to pay annual fees only four times, since the last year is counted as the period for house-surgency. On an average, students in a government medical college pay under Rs. 50,000 for their five-and-a-half-year course (hostel expenses are extra) and they are paid a stipend by the government in the final year.

In a self-financing college, students pay fees five times, and the total runs up to about Rs. 45 lakh (extra for hostel) for a student who has not paid capitation fees. If you count capitation fees, the student may be spending up to Rs. 1.2 crore on an MBBS degree.

“Even studying in Russia or China will be cheaper, though not advisable. A student completes the five-year course in Russia or China within Rs. 20 lakh,” says Mr. Gandhi.

As per rules, no private self-financing medical college can deny a meritorious candidate a seat simply on the basis of his or her ability to pay. A government health official explains, “No college can give a seat to a student who has say, 194.25 marks cut-off, if a student with 195 marks too has applied, in principle.” It is the practice of this rule that is in question.

Why do colleges charge so much? R.Gunasagaran, Dean, Saveetha Medical College, attempts to explain the costs involved. “There are huge running costs in setting up, and running a medical college. The initial expenditure for setting up a college itself requires Rs. 100 crore at the least, and there is additional cost for buying land,” he says.

Average emoluments for faculty, nursing and other support staff every month are huge. In addition, there is the cost of running a hospital attached to the college (mandated by MCI).