Worried at the low pass percentage among Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) students pursuing higher education through open and distance learning (ODL) mode, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is proposing changes to tackle the problem, including rolling out a new scheme.
One of the changes proposed relates to the tuition fee. Students belonging to the SC and ST communities currently get a 50% waiver in the tuition fee at the time of admission in ODL programmes offered by government institutions. The remaining 50% paid by them is returned if they appear for the examination.
According to the new proposal, SC/ST students will have to successfully complete their programmes in order to get back the tuition fee paid.
“Within the ODL, the pass percentage of the SC/ST students is around 20%. There is no incentive for them to successfully complete the programme. So, the tuition fee waived goes waste,” the Higher Education Department of the HRD ministry has noted in its five-year vision plan, justifying the proposal.
The HRD ministry approved the department’s five-year vision plan for 2019-2024 on Friday.
In order to “incentivise” clearing the end-semester/year-end exam, the ministry has proposed to launch the Success Rewarded (SURE) scheme. Under this scheme, the entire tuition fee “with an upper ceiling of Rs 10,000 per year” would be paid back to the student “as a reward” for passing the examinations.
“This will take care of the sundry expenses which a student bears to pursue higher education, incentivise success and also develop risk-taking ability in him/her in a sense the student is opting for an option which necessitates that he passes the exam,” the ministry noted.
To “incentivise” institutions to pay more attention to SC/ST students passing their examination, 10% of the SURE scheme fund would be given to the institution having an ODL study centre.
“The cost implication will be Rs 600 crore,” the ministry added.
The ministry has also proposed to set up 8,000 ‘Samras Hostels’ in five years to accommodate 16 lakh students from vulnerable socio-economic backgrounds as well as those from SC/ST.
“Scholarships for 16 lakh students to meet hostel expense will act as a support mechanism for students,” the ministry stated.