Saranya, who took a loan of Rs. 2 lakh to pursue a BE course in a self-financing college in Coimbatore will be completing the repayment of loan by the year-end.
A Dalit student, she was denied loan initially. “The manager told me loans are given only to people who come in cars. A friend then helped us get the loan,” says Saranya, now an IT company employee.
That was in 2010, when she also received around Rs. 3,000 as government scholarship. Many like Saranya continue to struggle to pay outstanding loans as they are uncertain about the post-matric scholarships that come from the Central government.
In the last two years as many as 60,000 students from SC, ST communities have joined engineering courses, but the State government is unable to pay their tuition fee as the Central funding often is delayed. Students in self-financing colleges fret over their future as managements pressurise them to pay the fees.
Activists say though recommendations were made in the Sub Plan for SCs and tribal communities for payment of tuition fees, the Union budget has been steadily reducing the funds allotted to the University Grants Commission for the purpose.
Between 2012-13 and 2015-16, the allocation for UGC under SC/ST sub plan was cut by 50 per cent. Activists say this could further impact the students’ education as they could drop out for want of funds.
R. Christodas Gandhi, founder of Ambedkar Kalvi Centenary Movement, says around 100 colleges that admitted over 50 per cent of the SC students are now putting pressure on the students to pay up.
For the year 2014-15, the Central government had sanctioned Rs. 1204.76 crore under the scheme for BE courses. So far, the State has received only Rs. 254 crore but that money had not reached self-financing colleges.
K. Srinivasan, convener of Educational Loan Task Force, says: “Every day we get grievances from across the nation and it is the poor students who suffer the most. As of March 2014, Rs. 60,000 crore has been paid out as loans to around 25 lakh beneficiaries across the countries.
This includes loans for foreign education.”
Though his organisation has been helping students to get education loans, he recommends that students try to claim eligible scholarships instead of becoming debtors.