NIFTEM-Sonipat: Keeping Students in the Dark, Govt College Revises Fee Structure

Since August, postgraduate students at National Institute of Food Technology, Entrepreneurship and Management (NIFTEM), Sonipat, have been writing e-mails to the administration asking them to explain the revised fee structure which is asking students to pay for resources such as the laboratory, library, hostel etc – resources that they haven’t been using.

The college is an autonomous institution that falls under the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Government of India. In August, they had issued a notice informing third-semester students about a revised fee structure. According to the notice, while some components of the fee were reduced, others were considerably hiked in order to keep the total fee same as before (i.e. Rs 86,250). For instance, while the tuition fee was revised from Rs 14,300 to Rs 25,850 and laboratory charges from Rs 7,400 to Rs 10,500; room rent was changed from Rs 9,300 to Rs 6,000. A copy of the old structure is with LiveWire.

This was the fee structure for the third semester and students had no choice but to make the full payment by November 3, 2020. And now for the fourth semester, the college has issued a yet another notice asking students to pay the fee (which is same as it was before) by February 10, 2021. However, unlike the previous notice, the current one doesn’t even provide a breakdown of the total fee being demanded.

There is only an addendum which says that the security fee has been reduced from Rs 15,000 to Rs 7,000. In the previous fee structure, the security fee was increased from Rs 7,000 (which students had deposited in their first semester) to Rs 15,000, but later on, they decided to roll it back to the previous amount. Since it is a refundable amount – which students can retrieve at the end of their course – students allege that reducing the amount would only benefit the university.

What’s the issue?

In August, students had written the college a collective email asking them to respond to “unjustified” fee hike for resources such as the laboratory, hostel, library and examination services, when classes were taking place online and none of the students were physically present in the college.  Notably, the examination fee was increased from Rs 2400 to Rs 3000 when students weren’t supposed to write any examination. According to students, third semester students had their internship and fourth semester students were working on their research work.

“Yes, the college waived the fee, but they also hiked it for other things in the name of re-adjustment. Our question is why should we pay for laboratory, hostel and other such services at all?” said a representative of students on the condition of anonymity.

In the same email, students also mentioned that since third semester students are supposed to do internships, they don’t have to pay the hostel rent, as has been the norm. The college, instead of waiving it off, also added a library fee which, according to students, was not charged even before the pandemic. It is unclear whether the college has asked for the library fee this time (for fourth semester) too because there is no breakdown of the fee in the current structure provided by the college.

Also read: Extra Fees, No Concessions: More Than 90 Indian Colleges Are Facing Student Protests

According to students, 30% of them come from marginalised sections of the society, but still they had to make the payment for the previous (third) semester to not get their admission cancelled, as the college had stated in the official notice.

Also, it is to note that this issue of the revision of fee structure doesn’t just concern postgraduate students, but also undergraduate, MBA as well as PhD students.

Authority’s response

Since the college, students say, was largely inconsiderate of students’ concerns, they reached out to other institutions and regulatory bodies. In October, students moved the University Grants Commission (UGC).

On October 21, NIFTEM responded to UGC’s query saying:

“The Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture instructed NIFTEM to revise the fee structure of NIFTEM for all the programmes from 2019-20 onwards on the basis of the recommendations of the National Fee Committee (NFC) of AICTE”

Furthermore, when students reached out to the parliamentary committee, they say that they didn’t have any clue about the matter.

The ministry of food and processing industries, on the other hand, responded to students saying:

“You have been informed earlier that the total fee for M.Tech. remains the same and there is only readjustment among various fee components. The revised fee structure was approved in the Board Meeting on 4/2/2020 before Covid19 lockdown was announced.”

However, students say that they were only informed about the revised fee structure in August, not in February (as stated above). LiveWire has also written an email to the NIFTEM administration seeking their response on the matter. We will update this copy as and when there is a response.

Also, on January 15, college’s registrar wrote a letter to the joint secretary of the Ministry of Food Processing Industries informing them that the faculty members have been in touch with third semester M.Tech students and none of them have any problem with the revised fee structure. Hence, they say, that the anonymous emails sent to the ministry “over the past few weeks be treated as invalid, and kindly be ignored.”

“NIFTEM will trace the source of such email, which are aimed at maligning the reputation of the institute at large and administrative authorities in particular,” said the letter.

Third-semester M.Tech students, on the other hand, have rejected their claims saying that they do have problems with the revised fee structure, and the letter is only trying to suppress the movement.

As of now, they (students) continue to mass-mail the college administration and other government bodies asking them to revoke the current fee structure adding that in future, if any student gets to own an institution like this or becomes a policymaker, they too will hike the fee without providing any reason or explanation, because that’s what they are seeing happening in their own college.