Educational institutions are run for profit, but they should be run with a heart
It is unethical for educational institutions to indulge in widespread exploitation and extortion with a view to amass maximum profits. No sympathy is shown towards deserving students who live below the poverty line and cannot pay the exorbitant tuition fees.
Ramya, an underprivileged girl from the outskirts of Chennai, had set her goals on becoming a teacher. She completed her graduation with great difficulty and applied for a job in a private school.
The authorities assured her that she would get the job once she got a B.Ed. degree. Ramya decided to join a reputed college to get her degree. She was asked to pay Rs. one lakh as course fees. A shocked Ramya explained her inability to pay such a huge amount and requested a discount. This was not entertained by the institution, but it gave her a written assurance that it would arrange for an educational loan of Rs. 65,000. Ramya was asked to make the balance payment.
Ramya pledged the family jewels to pay Rs. 35,000. The institution retained her original certificates, and when she requested them for the application form for the education loan, she was informed that she would get only Rs. 32,000 and not the amount promised earlier. She was told to pay the difference of Rs. 33,000.
An aggrieved Ramya pleaded with the management to understand her inability to mobilise such a huge amount and asked for more time. But, the institution was adamant and Ramya decided to withdraw from the course.
Ramya repeatedly requested them to at least refund the amount (Rs.35,000) paid by her, and return her certificates, but to no avail. Ramya narrated the incident to a friend of hers, who told her about consumer groups that help resolve such issues. Ramya approached them and explained the incident in detail.
In one of its decisions, the Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission condemned educational institutions for demanding the entire fees at the beginning of the course.
It said that in case of a one-year course, the initial fees collected may be only for the first quarter, and in case the course lasted two years or more, for six months. Any aberration amounted to unfair trade practice. This was explained to Ramya and she was told to approach the consumer fora for redressal.
Nonetheless, Ramya did not want to continue her education in the institution. She was advised to send a letter to the institution asking for the refund and her original certificates.
On receiving no response, the consumer group sent a notice to the institution, stating that because of their unfair means, Ramya was unable to continue her education and that she was entitled to a refund along with interest. Also, the original certificates were to be returned mmediately, failing which, she would approach the appropriate fora to seek damages. Realising the gravity of the situation, the institution immediately refunded the sum along with interest and the original certificates.
Ramya got back her money and certificates, but could not pursue her studies and lost valuable time because of the apathetic attitude of the institution.
Though establishments, including educational institutions, are run with profit in mind, it is imperative that they function responsibly towards society and not indulge in activities that could spoil the future of potential candidates.
(The writer works with CAG, which offers free advice on consumer complaints to its members. For membership details/queries contact 24914358/24460387 or firstname.lastname@example.org)