Heralding the academic year with anxiety

COSTLY COMMITMENTs: For many parents, June is an expensive month. –

COSTLY COMMITMENTs: For many parents, June is an expensive month. –   | Photo Credit: Photos: M. Periasamy

Amutha Kannan

June is that time of the year that always burns a hole in the pocket. Inflation could not have come at a more inappropriate time to make things worse for parents.

Admission to a new course or the next higher class in a school or college brings with it a lot of new additions that cost a fortune. The newness extends to fee structure, textbooks, notebooks, uniforms (normally three for school-goers), lab coats, school/college bag, lunch and tiffin boxes, shoes, etc. And, all these today cost much more than they used to.

With the normal day-to-day expenditure hitting the roof, families will have to be on a tight budget this month to send their child / children to school or college. In the case of parents having a school goer and college goer, the money has to be stretched to the last penny to make them enter a fresh academic year.

In the case of school children, fee to be paid on a quarterly basis begins this month. “June brings along a slew of expenditure. It does not stop with school fee. Purchasing school accessories along with the regular house-hold expenses will make a big dent on the budget,” laments S. Latha, mother of a Standard I student.

Parents of college-goers, especially those studying professional and self-financing courses, will have to make a separate nest for paying the semester / annual fee. The self-financing courses cost four or five times that of the aided courses. Not to forget the monthly pocket money.

But, the worst to be hit will be parents of first-year college goers. Besides the regular fee that will be anywhere between Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 80,000, there will be the additional burden of management fee to be paid for management seats. The fee will be fixed at the discretion of the institution and can run into a few lakhs.

“In the face of stiff competition, putting children in a good group in the case of Plus-One and a good degree course in the case of college becomes top priority. Education loans are a big help. But, they will come into hand only after we have paid from our pocket. Also, the management fee is not included in the education loan. We have saved some. The rest has to be borrowed from somewhere. We can scrimp and save only to a certain extent. We cannot compromise on our child’s education and comfort,” says Lalitha, a working mother, whose son is an aspiring mechanical engineer.

For parents, whose children are hostellers, the boarding, lodging and messing expenses are additional. For a day scholar student who travels from Singanallur to Saravanampatti, the college bus charge is approximately Rs. 7,500 a year. For those commuting by scooters or motorcycle, the expenditure of fuel is to be taken into account.

Students going abroad for studies, face the additional burden of Visa and ticket charges. P.N. Das who is sending his son abroad to do a post-graduate course in Australia has this suggestion: “It is difficult for anybody to send their children for higher studies. There is no difference between studying here and overseas. Higher education is expensive here too. Only the initial phase is difficult for me. Once my son goes to Australia, he will be permitted to work while studying. He will be able to manage his expenses. How many college students here have the inclination to work or get opportunities to work while studying? I feel this should be encouraged here so that the burden on the parents is reduced.”

Educationists too feel that higher education is quite expensive. It still remains elusive for the common man. It is still only affordable by the well-to-do, says a Vice-Chancellor.

While this is one side of the pendulum, the other side is equally bad. A professor of the Government College of Technology says that while on one side people are fleeced by the aided and self-financing colleges, the fee for an engineering course in Government colleges has been reduced from Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 7,500 a year. This is not enough to run a course efficiently. Specialised courses like bio-technology cost too much. Earlier, such courses used to be charged Rs. 30,000; now, they have also been made on a par with other courses and the fee has been fixed at Rs. 7,500.”

Students going in for arts and science subjects can enjoy a slight respite from very high course fee. Parents, whose wards choose the basic science subjects, have an additional dilemma of choosing the right college. A basic science course costs much more in a technical institution as compared to the same being offered in an arts and science college.

Despite all the apprehensions regarding inflation, excepting a handful, the majority seem to be going all out to give their children the best, not only in terms of education, but also other facilities. Most of them seem to opt for the education loan that combines a computer and a motorcycle.

A basic degree seems to be a thing for granted even among the poorest. As many as 1,000 engineering students of a Government college are continuing their education, thanks to education loans, since they cannot afford even the nominal Rs. 7,500 fee once a year.

There are parents who send their children hungry to school for want of money to buy essentials; but they will not stop the child from attending school.

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