‘May Have to Drop Out’: NLSIU Students Protest 25% Fee Hike

‘May Have to Drop Out’: NLSIU Students Protest 25% Fee Hike

India

Students of National Law School of India University (NLSIU), India’s top law school are up in arms over a proposed fee hike of 25% that would cause students to shell out between Rs 50,000-1,50,000 more than what they had expected to pay for this year.

While the news of the fee hike was revealed to students through a nondescript notice on the college website weeks ago, a statement by the Student Bar Association, a group representing the interests of the students, claims that the controversial decision dates back to 2017.

The minutes of a meeting between the college’s top decision-making body, the Executive Council and the 53rd Finance Committee, state that “the income of NLS from all sources has reached a flat graph and further suggested to increase the students’ fee by Rs. 20000 /- per annum” read a post by the SBA on Facebook.

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The Quint chatted with NLSIU students to understand the reason behind their ire and the implications of the sudden hike on the student community.

On Saturday, 6 July, students dressed in white, gathered outside the meeting of the EC, in solidarity with their fellow students who would be directly affected if the hike wasn’t rolled back.
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    (Photo: The Quint)
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    (Photo: The Quint)
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One of the reasons cited by college authorities for the fee hike is the proposed implementation of the 7th Pay Commission which would go towards “finally recruiting qualified permanent teaching faculty ”

The statement by the SBA also notes that the fee hike would essentially push students – even those not from economically weaker families – into a debt trap that would have a further cascading effect on their future and subsequent choice of career.

“The most troubling implication of this substantial fee hike is it will fundamentally alter the demographic and social composition of the University and facilitate the re-production of existing hierarchies of knowledge, which in turn will create a worrying institution of exclusionary legal education.”
Statement by SBA

Entry Barrier and Lack of Safety Net

Saloni Goyal, a 4th year student of the college said that one of the first things that she worried about when she first gained admission in this college was how she was going to pay the fees. Her parents’annual income amounts to Rs 2,50,000 and now she was being asked to shell out the same amount for one year’s education.

“I was assured that the college provides scholarships to everyone who was financially not equipped to handle it. But they don’t do that for real. I only got 25% of the amount, which was Rs 40,000. That is abominable,” she said.

Students from less well-off families would have already planned their finances for the duration of the 5-year course and students say it is unfair to burden them further at this late stage.

Aditya Krishna, a second year student, said that one of the alternatives open to students at this late stage would be loans, but banks wouldn’t sanction an enhanced loan amount just like that, leaving the families and students with not many lines of credit.

Students are particularly against the retrospective implementation of the fee hike and believe that it must be immediately rolled back for existing students, while the enhancement has to be properly laid out and justified even to incoming students in the first year. They also believe that many deserving candidates might have shied away from seeking admission this year, due to the suddenly hiked fees.

State of Legal Education

Observing that there was a disturbing trend in cities across India of passing on the burden of rising costs through fee hikes, John Simte, a 5th year student said that NLSIU should in fact function as a trendsetter and example to other national law schools across the country.

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“What’s even more worrying is that it allows for the discontinuation of regular students studying in this university because they simply cannot afford the fee hike. Professional legal education has come to be an equaliser socially, culturally and economically for underprivileged students and what the fee hike does is remove this opportunity of being an equaliser,” he said.

Students insist that the college must come up with alternative ways to generate revenue, that don’t include taxing the students.

Aspirations From the New Vice-Chancellor

The SBA has also put out a list of aspirations for the future of NLSIU, particularly from the person appointed as the next VC as to what can be done for the college to truly emerge as a centre of excellence.

Some of these include cultivating high-quality research, attracting and retaining competent faculty members and leveraging alumni networks and engagement with students.

Politicians Across Party Lines Criticised the Move

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor and BJP MP Tejaswi Surya were among the politicians to speak out.

BJP’s Tejaswi Surya, MP from Bengaluru South tweeted with #RollBackFeeHike

Students said, that in the event that the EC doesn’t roll back the fee hike, they might have to seek redressal by approaching the court.  

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