IIMs outrageous moves
Sorry about the attention grabbing title. Nothing, except being normal is outrageous in India.
Back when Murli Manohar Joshi was the HRD Minister and I did not have a blog, I used to comment under the name of realitycheck on Indian Express forums. This lasted a while until they blocked me. I remember kicking up a storm when I said the IIMs really do not get the reason they even exist. At that time, the overarching ambition for the powers-that-be was to open campuses abroad in places such as Singapore, Dubai, San Jose, etc. Some events recently have confirmed that they still do not get it. Clue : Government aided institute in a developing country.
A couple of days IIM-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) hiked their fees, scratch that. They doubled their fees. IIM-Bangalore (IIM-B) wasted no time in following suit.
Why is this a problem ? What is wrong in charging students what it actually costs to educate them ? The devil is in the details of how they plan to deal with those who cannot afford.
First the news clippings:
AHMEDABAD: The Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, on Saturday announced a quantum jump in its fees structure raising it from the present Rs. 2.5 lakh per annum to Rs. 5.5 lakh per annum for the first year and Rs. 6 lakh for the second year of the two-year post-graduate programme in management.
The decision was taken at the annual meeting of the Board of governors of the IIM-A held here on Saturday just before its 43rd annual convocation later in the evening addressed by the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
Despite reports that both the Central and the State government nominees on the IIM-A Board were opposed to such astronomical rise in fees at one go, a spokesman of the IIM-A claimed that the fee hike decision was “unanimous.” The spokesman claimed that the government nominees were present at the Board meeting and agreed to the proposal.
Source : Hindu
Then a magnanimous gesture :
The institution, however, reiterated its commitment to support eligible students from the economically weaker sections. No student, if found eligible for admission to the IIM-A, would be deprived of the opportunity purely for financial reasons, he said.
In view of the fee hike, the Board also decided to increase the family income limit for eligibility for financial support from Rs. 2 lakh per annum to Rs. 6 lakh. “Graded need-based financial aid will be available to eligible students who qualify for financial support,” Mr. Singhania said.
Source : Hindu (emp added)
I could go on about how the IIMs primary goal must be to make quality management education accessible to Indians. Even though they do not get it, lets no belabor the point.
The issue I have is the effect of this hike on the “approachability factor”. Words like “eligible”, “need-based”, “family limit”, “deserving student” – are evil, no matter how well intentioned they are. They act as barriers and only encourage groups which are confident of negotiating them.
Back to the fee issue. The whole “no deserving student left behind for economic reasons” argument holds no water. Here is why !
- The 6 Lacs per annum limit is arbitrary and without justification.
- There is a risk of making the whole program unapproachable due to perception of cost and nervousness with the proposed aid system. “What if they reject my financial application on some flimsy grounds ? What if the loan officer does not like my looks, caste, religion, whatever ? My dad earns 7 lakhs, but is in deep debt, can I pull off the aid ? Is this “IIM” thing for rich kids, like Manipal, I do not know if I should try out ? What if by chance my aid gets rejected, I dont have a backup plan ?
The right approach : An automatic aid system
A guaranteed financial aid system. This must be automatic for those who apply.
This must feature :
- no collateral
- no eligibility cut offs such as the Rs 6 Lakh figure cited by the board
- no personal interviews
- no demands on parents or guardians
- the interest rates must be nominal and must be on easy terms, there must be an option to start payments after a year or two of employment
- this must be clearly advertised in the announcement notices for the CAT exam
In short, the lower or middle income group Indian must feel, “IIMs are expensive and my family is not in great shape. This is not a factor because they have this automatic aid package. I know I am guaranteed aid and I can pay back once I get a job on soft terms. No ifs and buts.”
An alternative is to keep IIM fees the same or to LOWER them. The selection process is still strong, so the brightest will make it anyway. Maybe, they have to slum it out and not be as flashy as the ISB or Great Lakes. They should let private schools go after the higher end and begin measuring their own operations to their original charter. They should go “wide” more then “deep”. If this means conceding top place to ISB, then so be it. IIMs cant fight the ISBs in the long run, as long as they accept taxpayer money.