S. Divyabharati, who was thrilled two weeks ago, when she got admission to ECE branch in a leading engineering college near here, is no longer excited. She is clueless after coming to know that she should pay Rs. 88,500 as fee upfront.

Ms. Divyabharati, who belongs to the Scheduled Caste and resides near Red Hills, knows she cannot mobilise the amount. Her father is watchman in a private firm, earning Rs. 4,000 a month.

She knows there is a scheme for first generation graduates, under which the government takes care of tuition fee, which is now Rs. 45,000. What she does not know is that there is another scheme, a Post-Matric Scholarship, offering more benefits for SC students than others.

As part of the Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme devised by the Centre and implemented through States, the compulsory non-refundable fee — what is charged towards registration/enrolment, tuition, games, union and library membership, medical examination and any other fee compulsorily payable — is covered, apart from a host of other fees.

A senior official in the Adi Dravidar Welfare (ADW) Commissioner’s office clarifies that transport charges are not covered. In Divyabharati’s case this comes to Rs. 19,000 a year.

Ashok Kumar, the son of a daily-wage labourer in Tiruvallur hailing from the Arunthatiyar community (part of SCs), is also in the same state of unpreparedness as Ms. Divyabharati is. He has been allotted civil engineering and asked by another private college to pay Rs. 72,000 in 10 days. “I don’t even have enough money to travel by bus. I do not know how I am going to remit the fees,” he laments.

At present, the students have to apply through their colleges for the Post-Matric Scholarship scheme.

More than their level of awareness regarding this scheme or that, the serious problem being faced by students such as Ashok Kumar and Divyabharati is that they are in no condition to remit the fees on their own at the time of admission. The managements of private colleges, to which several students interviewed by The Hindu have gained admission, are not ready to admit them without collecting the fees, even if they know that they will be able to get the fees reimbursed by the government as such students are eligible for coverage under one scholarship scheme or the other.

This year, most private self-financing engineering colleges have asked students to pay the fees latest by August 14.

“How can they pay so much money when their families struggle for daily sustenance? Many of them find paying Rs. 5,000 itself very difficult,” says D. Sherin, founder, Velicham, an NGO that works to facilitate higher education of underprivileged students.

The principal of a self-financing college says generally, colleges spare first generation graduates of the tuition fee. In respect of other schemes, the funds transfer from the government invariably comes late.

“Last year, many colleges reimbursed students many months after admission and students had to pay almost two years’ fees.”

To a question why the State government should not make arrangements for direct payment of fees for SC students, the official in the ADW Commissionerate replies that the administration is contemplating various steps. More students will be encouraged to open savings bank accounts so that their scholarship money can be credited through ECS. Already, SB accounts have been opened for about 24,000 students covered under the scholarship scheme.

On Monday, the Commissionerate will hold a meeting with bankers and the National Informatics Centre (NIC) to discuss online transfer of money. Though the official points out that his office has set up a stall on the Anna University campus, the venue of engineering counselling, to disseminate information on the scholarship scheme, he agrees that much more requires to be done to increase the level of awareness. The process for getting the scholarship should also be simplified.

A senior government official says funds are very much available with the implementing departments, which have to do some more coordination involving college managements, higher education officials and district authorities.