The 'business' of serving students

The 'business' of serving students

The year 2003 saw the birth of an alternative to the Common Entrance Test (CET) held by the State-run Karnataka Examinations Authority (KEA) - the Consortium of Medical Engineering and Dental colleges of Karnataka or more popularly known as COMED-K.

Some might argue that the offshoot from CET, COMED-K was driven on account of most private professional colleges pursuing professional education as a business than a service. The charges of unreasonable hikes in fee structure and treating colleges as a money making machine has elicited a response of reverting back to a single CET from 2010.

"It is wishful thinking on behalf of the government," says Executive Director of COMED-K, Dr S Kumar. Kumar, who is the admission authority for the colleges under the consortium, believes that as long as the CET is an "extended limb of the government" it is not possible to join hands with the KEA for conducting a "transparent and neutral" system of selecting students on merit.

"The sub-categories (reservation) in the CET are nothing but exit windows (to sidestep merit) for the government. They do not ensure that deserving candidates are selected fairly," he says.

NRI quota

If that is the case, who answers for the Non-Resident Indian (NRI) quota that the private colleges have? "True, even the NRI quotas are today misused by certain colleges in the state for their profit," he accepts. But in the same vein Kumar argues that the presence of NRI quota has enabled "off-loading" of partial monetary burden from the back of Indian students seeking education in private colleges.

"The cost borne by the Government as stated by them before the Supreme Court division bench is Rs four lakh per student. While they can find the money by raising taxes by a minimal amount, private colleges cannot afford to provide seats for Rs 35,000 per student," he adds. One of the charges levied against the Consortium is the charging of exorbitant fees for seats in private medical colleges. An NRI quota medical seat may cost up to Rs 40 lakh 'apiece', reveals an insider.

According to a Medical Council of India  survey, COMED-K states that only two colleges - CMC, Vellore and PGCI, Chandigarh - no other private medical institution in the country is "self-sufficient" without taxing the student. "Besides, a medical college has to have a hospital that is attached to the college on a subsidised basis puts additional burden on students," says Kumar.

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