Poor Info & Communication Put College Freshers in Admission Crisis
The delayed registrations in public universities are forcing students to resort to expensive private universities.
Since the beginning of online classes, the stakeholders at various levels, including government authorities, schools and university administrations, and civil societies, have made endeavours to ease the struggles of incumbent students and find innovative ways to cope with provisioning of online classes.
However, the plight of those who are in the process of entering the higher education system hasn’t been able to attract our attention. The recent high school graduates or those we can call “the students in transition” are facing a debilitating atmosphere because of not only lockdown, deferment of board exams and results, but also because of mounting uncertainties regarding their admission into their choice of college.
The current batch of transitioning students is subjected to prolonged waiting periods, along with the dearth of information and untimely communication on the part of public universities regarding admissions. Where in general circumstances, the public universities like Delhi University, Jamia Millia or State Universities would have been conducting their mid-semester exams around this time, this year there is not even a trace of “freshers”( or as fondly called as “fucchas”) in these universities.
No doubt that university administrations are struggling with unprecedented challenges this year. However, what is inscrutable is the stark difference in the action and response-time taken by the public and private universities concerning the UG admission process.
Public Universities Still Figuring While Private Universities Are Adapting
The Central and the State public universities are still in the process of registration of aspirants for the 2020 batch, which will almost continue till the middle of September. After completion, it will take a few more weeks to release the series of merit lists/ cutoffs and process the admissions, with speculative commencement of the first semester dragging into mid-October or November.
On the other hand, private education institutions like Ashoka University and Christ College (Deemed to be University), among others, have already begun their first semester online.
The delayed admission process of public universities have left their prospective students with no option but to join the private universities that they could afford. The students have been stuck in a confused state where they are torn between confirming a seat in an expensive private institute and keeping their faith in the public universities to give them the opportunity to access affordable education.
“Although I have paid a lofty fee to take admission in a private college in Karnataka, I am still hoping for admission to the University of Delhi”, said Palak, a recent high school graduate with 95 percent from Jaipur.
Many students like Palak have resorted to taking admission in private colleges in the hope of migrating to public universities once they start their admissions. “It is too late for public universities now, as I would not get any refund of the huge fee my parents deposited with my current college if I choose to shift,” Palak added. This has led to psychological and financial struggles for the students and their families.
Resorting to private colleges in the process of waiting for release of cut-offs has become a huge opportunity cost for these students in terms of money and time. Love (name changed) from Kanpur, who aspires for admission in Ambedkar University, or Delhi University said, “I worked for two years to get into the desired university. Even after getting selected in all private universities, I applied to, I could not get in because of financial constraints. It is taking a toll on me.”
Lack of clarity about admissions and looming uncertainties have been having a huge impact on their internal motivation, self-worth as well as their zest to learn.
Students Caught Between the Devil and The Deep Sea
Some statistics might help in understanding the context of the higher education system and the gravity of the situation. The massive importance of public provision of education can be gauged from the fact that around 41 percent of total enrolments in the academic year 2018-2019 were in Central and State public universities. In contrast, only around 24 percent of enrolments were in private and private-deemed universities.
The marginalised section’s dependence is even higher with around 47 percent of SCs, and 36 percent of STs enrolled in public sector institutes (compared to 14 percent and 15 percent respectively in private and deemed-private universities) as per an All India Survey of Higher Education (AISHE) report.
Moreover, the report reveals the scanty presence of students from marginalised sections where out of total enrolment in higher education institutions, the SCs and STs constitute only 14.9 percent and Scheduled Tribes students 5.5 percent.
In Delhi University alone, more than 3.5 lakh forms for admissions were filled in 2019 with SCs and STs comprising around 11 percent of the registrations. Along with this, around 9,000 registrations took place under the EWS category.
Rohit Rajak, from Rourkela, Odisha, who scored 94.75 percent in the recent boards, shared with us his aspiration to join the B.A.(Hons) Political Science course at Delhi University. However, because of prolonged delays and uncertainties regarding merit lists, he did not want to take any risk; hence, he had to resort to taking admission in a private university near Delhi.
Like Palak, he also pointed out that the cost of migration to DU would be so high that he might stick to his current college. Muskan Grover from Delhi also shared her frustration by saying,
“ Many of us haven’t got admission anywhere yet and have been waiting for the merit list… The time is unproductive and getting wasted.”
Freshers Disconnected, Professors Still Clueless
The online mode of education is creating yet another challenge for the freshers. Continuing her conversation, Ms. Palak told us how the online platform is creating boundaries for learning for first-year college students. She has received admission into B.Com (Hons), and she insists that her learning is being affected by this new platform.
Ergonomically speaking, the infrastructure of any university is developed to create a conducive learning environment, without which the students won’t be able to reach their full potential. With online learning, students are not on the campus and are unable to access a physical learning environment. This has led to freshers feeling disconnected with their studies, their college and even their classmates.
Unable to develop bonds in a new environment, students are unable to create a sense of belonging. The problems of online classrooms are even more grave in the case of freshers, as they are, for the first time, getting out of the comforts of their school environment.
Geetanjali, a student from Delhi added that though she understands the current scenario, she and her family are losing patience and expect some action to be quickly taken to resolve the unnecessary delays.
Though the private universities exhibited efficiency by immediately adapting to the changing scenario, the persistent red-tapism in public universities has been keeping everyone in limbo.
Our conversations with public university professors’ revealed that even they have not been given any information about first year admissions, and have been struggling to ensure online classes are well managed and assessments are properly carried out.
Who Loses Out?
In the midst of all this, the one who loses is the students in transition, and no mitigatory measure is being taken to curb their emotional and financial burdens. The trends towards higher reliance of students on privatized education in the face of lagging adaptability of public institutions is yet another challenge.
The pandemic situation should not drag us away from our resolve of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education as enshrined by the recently launched New Education Policy 2020. Till then the students stuck in the ugly middle expect a quick response from public universities, and the speeding up of the admission process once registrations are complete.
Akansh Khandelwal is a Ph.D Scholar in Economics at IIM Indore and provides career counseling for students and Vartika Varyani is a trained psychological counsellor, pursuing Ph.D in Organizational Behaviour/ Human Resource Management from IIM Indore.
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