Now college students to rally for St Bede’s, but solution lies elsewhere


By: Satyakam Bharti

Much before successive governments woke up to the need of promoting Himachal as a tourist destination, the centuries-old prestigious schools in the state were the only goodwill ambassadors for the state. Even today a good percentage of Indian elite prefer to send their children to these schools – St Bede’s being one of them. The recent near-shocking news that the college, still known to be one of the best in the country, may be closed down due to financial constraints, should have brought about shock waves across all such  institutions, as they may be expected to be struggling as well.

The helpless college (surviving on government aid) now appears to have no hope left, except for students from different colleges across Shimla who have now come in support of the college and have decided to hold rallies to press for continuing with government aid for the institution. Students from Rajkiya Kanya Mahavidyalaya, Rajiv Gandhi Degree College, Government College Sanjauli and St Bede’s College will hold a joint rally on November 4 to support the cause.

The problem has arisen because under the changes law the government is feeling helpless to extend aid, while the college, (to promote education among girls) does not want to charge extra. Under the 1994 rules, four private colleges in the state were getting grants from the government. But since then the number of colleges have gone up to around 20, and each college has been left with a smaller share. The college charges a monthly fee of only Rs 50 from undergraduate students, which was fixed in 1970 to meet the rising staff salary bills.

Considering today’s reality in the education field, the college stand not to increase fee seems a bit out of place and impractical. While the profile of students studying in St Bede’s College may have changed since 1904 when it was established, with a sizable number of middle class and even lower middle class students getting an opportunity to study here, it still remains a fact that most of students who study here can afford to pay more than what is being charged from them.

At a time when a number of good educational institutions are voluntarily reserving a certain percentage of seats for underprivileged students and some even running separate schools for them, the college can very well work out a mechanism to offer affordable education to girls who otherwise would have remained deprived of it. Considering the premium the college name holds, it would not be too difficult to convince parents of students from the privileged class to pay at least what is being charged by other good institutions, who of course are running in profits.

The college management needs to understand that even charity needs a professional approach and only good intentions are not enough to continue with it. Maybe, the current batch of students understands this better and will develop a consensus to pay more, like they have done to hold a rally to save the college.

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  1. A look into the campus inside would reveal that it’s mere 15% of students who can afford to continue with their studies if the fee is increased.

    The rest-usually come from lower class, or middle class families where “high fee” is one barrier despite how much bright the child may be.

    Either deprive that section from education and get “in-date”, at par with other institutions or continue through the grind and hope for a solution…

  2. Time to think rationally rather than emotionally…College management instead of expecting Govt. aid (which is nothing but tax payers' money) should think about marshalling resources on its own else get merged with some leading private institution.

    Some ideas:

    1. Increase fee…those who can commute to this college and relish snacks at pappi-ka-dhaba can definitely absorb a hike in fee. Use a differential fee structure if that doesn't ruffle few pigtails/pony tails.

    2. Seek donations from the alumnae.

    3. Rent out the premises for training programmes/seminars during weekends/non-academic periods. This could be for corporates or even sarkari babus.

    4. Start job-oriented courses for women (say on weekends/non-academic session).

    In a nut shell, during the entire 365 days there should be a revenue generating activity on the campus.

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