ISLAMABAD: The exorbitant fee structure of Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) colleges in comparison to the provinces has made it difficult for the students of low income groups to afford acquiring higher education.
The high fee has badly affected the enrollment of these colleges due to dropout and returning of students to the colleges of their respective provinces. Hundreds of local students, particularly from rural areas of federal capital, are incredibly poor and are compelled to miss out on a college education due to high fee.
According to an official source, the fee structure of four-year BS Program and Associate Degree Program (ADP) of ICT colleges is beyond the means and paying capacity of the parents of the students. The students are charged fee ranges from Rs.19100 to Rs.22100 in the first semester while in the subsequent semesters it is around 15000.
The provinces which generally have less resources, are charging a very affordable fee which is 400% less than the ICT colleges. Consequently, students influx desirous of admission in ADP or BS program are heading to colleges in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The sister city Rawalpindi is attracting students from Islamabad and if the trend continues, F.G colleges will be deserted and infrastructure underutilized.
The crisis for low grade and low- paid government employees living in and across the capital has further deepened as they are compelled to send their children to villages located under the jurisdiction of Punjab adding hassle of commuting to far flung Rawalpindi vicinities.
Muhammad Munir, a father and a government servant said, “College Education in Islamabad is no longer a public good. This is very unfortunate that the ICT colleges have priced out poor students of the city with high college fees. Heavy college dues are out of the reach of government employees”. He said that the government was keeping the poor away from higher education, demanding FDE to revise the fee structure.
A Professor at Islamabad Model Postgraduate College H-8 said, “Present fee structure of ADP and BS Program can only enable a wealthy student to attend college and in fact shutting out many of his poor peers. Public sector colleges should not be allowed to charge whatever they like, like a free market. The present government must take action in this regard to ensure provision of affordable education facilities for the students belonging to the low income groups, as per its vision, he said.
Considering the decline in the enrollment of colleges in BS and ADP, fee structure should be revised so that a higher proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds could get education in these particular subjects.
A professor at Islamabad College for Boys G-6/3 said, “The poor students who are already in unsustainable position, face challenges and a severe lack of opportunities of higher education. They have to do several part time jobs to afford fee which hampers their success. Students with no support pass from a difficult time while getting a degree.
Contrary to this, the fee structure of the public colleges at provincial level are very affordable and much lower than capital colleges. The fee structure of public sector colleges in Punjab is Rs.6000 per annum fee for ADP. The fee for BS Program is around 4000 per semester in the public sector colleges of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab which is four times less than the ICT colleges.
Another parent Muhammad Ali said, charging high fee in public sector institutions is indirect support of private sector institutions. That’s why there is a mushroom increase of private institutions in the country. It is unfortunate that the poorer families are bearing the brunt of college fee hikes, he said.
Shahid Aslam, another parent said public colleges in the federal metropolis were meant for accommodating the children and adolescents of lower class government employees working in Islamabad and the adjoining rural areas. He deplored that the BS program fee structure in colleges has added to the working class miseries. He urged the authorities to reduce fees to normal so that colleges get the fair number of students and student teacher ratio is not affected. Public colleges are basically service institutions to promote education and training for the general public; they must not be run on industrial footing to earn profits, he added. An employee of Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) said that previously, employees of FDE were given fee waive for BA/BSc program but BS program has no such support system left. Even the College employees have no assurance to get any rebate in the given scenario.