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NLSIU student council ‘strongly condemns’ secretive, ‘drastic’ Rs 50k+ fee hike, appeals for alum help [UPDATE: NLUO, NUJS support]

NLS students oppose quiet 25% fee-hike rolled out quietly by admin
NLS students oppose quiet 25% fee-hike rolled out quietly by admin

NLSIU Bangalore’s Student Bar Association (SBA) has made a strong statement against the tuition fees hike of at least Rs 47,000 that had been quietly rolled out by the administration and appealed for help from alums to raise this at the next Executive Council (EC) meeting.

We had exclusively reported the fee hike a week ago, and the SBA said that while it understood the “legitimate concerns” behind the hike and the need to ensure an increase in faculty salaries, under the 7th Pay Commission, it would not be appropriate to unilaterally increase the fees and other expenses of students, without consultation with the student body.

It also criticised how the fee hike had been “discreetly put up” on a corner of the university’s website, rather than circulated in a notification by email.

Furthermore, the hike would come “at the cost of the financial stability of the families of the students. The parents of many students save throughout the year in order to ensure that they are able to pay their children’s fees. Thus, not only does this sudden and drastic increase of fee adversely affect the financial situation of the students, it obviously has an exaggerated impact on those in an already financially vulnerable position”.

The hike was announced at very short notice, which created the risk of students not being able to raise sufficient further loans to meet the unexpected additional costs, said the SBA.

The increase in tuition fees was “antithetical to the very purpose” of NLSIU, and would “obviously disproportionately affect students from socially vulnerable groups including students from scheduled castes/tribes who more than often come from economically disadvantaged sections of society”.

Alternative options should be explored, such as the “long-demanded nationalization as well as grant of Institute of National Importance (INI) status to NLSIU – we believe it is possible for students and the administration to collectively seek other such methods”, or, only making the fee hike applicable for incoming students and not for current students who may be left only with the choice of paying the higher fee - which could be unrealistic for some - or “dropping out of college”.

Update 15:22: The NLU Odisha student body association has expressed solidarity with NLSIU’s council (see full statement on Facebook):

We stand in solidarity with the students of NLSIU against the disproportionate fee hike imposed by the administration. National Law Univerisities need to take into account the economic hardships as well as the burden of education loans thrust upon the students before sanctioning any such hike. Therefore we strongly condemn the decsion made by the administration of NLSIU, Bangalore.

Update 3 July 2019: NUJS Kolkata’s student council has also supported the NLS SBA in an statement.

Full SBA statement:

Dear all, The annual fees for the B.A. L.LB. (Hons.), LLM and the MPP programs at NLSIU was recently increased by between Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 60,000 for incumbent students, an increase of more than 25% of the existing fees. This was done without consulting the students, who were also not given any advance notice in order to prepare for such a hike. The Student Bar Association, NLSIU strongly condemns the sudden and drastic fee hike.

The 57th finance committee had, in its meeting on 5 August 2017, observed that the income of NLSIU from all sources had become stagnant. This is a grave concern and can potentially impact NLSIU’s financial as well as administrative autonomy. Due to this, the committee recommended an increase of students’ fee by Rs.20000 per annum. Further, former Chairperson, UG Council had recommended an increase of fees by 25% to implement the 7 th Pay Commission. Despite the decision to increase the fees being taken almost 2 years ago, the students only got to know of the hike through a fees notification dated May 5, 2019, which was discreetly put up on the college’s website, and whose existence the students discovered only much later. It is worth considering that in the past the college’s Finance Officer used to circulate the annual fees notifications on the mail.

It is important to note that even though the aim of the fee hike is to implement the 7 th Pay Commission, the hike is not made to only the tuition fee as would be appropriate, but rather to the overall fee under various heads without providing the rationale behind increasing the fees under these – such as Internet costs (which are already very high for the quality of service offered). Further, the old fees structure already had a provision for a 12% yearly increase to account for inflation. Therefore the fees hike under the different heads is unexplained, unforeseeable and has been implemented without adequate notice.

However necessary and precise these aims may be, they cannot be achieved at the cost of the financial stability of the families of the students. The parents of many students save throughout the year in order to ensure that they are able to pay their children’s fees. Thus, not only does this sudden and drastic increase of fee adversely affect the financial situation of the students, it obviously has an exaggerated impact on those in an already financially vulnerable position.

It is also important to recognize the adverse impact of this fee hike on the students who have either received scholarships or taken student loans to finance their studies. Therefore, not only will this fee hike result in additional unforeseeable financial burden on these students, the expeditious nature of the hike will potentially prevent the affected students from exploring alternative means of paying the fees, thus jeopardizing their education in the premier legal education institution of India.

It is important to recognize the compound effect of the fee hike on the students hailing from socially disadvantaged groups as well. The fee hike will obviously disproportionately affect students from socially vulnerable groups including students from scheduled castes/tribes who more than often come from economically disadvantaged sections of society. Given that NLSIU is a public institution created in furtherance of promotion of legal education, such a fee hike is antithetical to the very purpose of establishing this institution and has an adverse impact on the student body as well as the very spirit of inclusivity which permeates throughout the NLSIU fraternity.

Lastly, we would like to implore and urge the administration to explore non-detrimental ways and methods to cater to the needs of the institution. One of these is the long-demanded nationalization as well as grant of Institute of National Importance (INI) status to NLSIU – we believe it is possible for students and the administration to collectively seek other such methods.

However, we do understand the legitimate concerns of the administration that have led to this fee hike. If these concerns cannot be addressed through any other means, then we would like to propose an alternative where the revised fee structure is prospectively applicable only for the incoming students, and not for the current students. This will potentially alleviate the situation for the lot of current students who are only left with choosing between paying the increased fee, or dropping out of college – neither of which may be desirable, acceptable or realistic choices for a many of the students at NLSIU.

We will be making a representation regarding this to the Executive Council during their meeting on the 6th of July, and would greatly appreciate any help we can get in dealing with this issue from alumni, members of the legal fraternity or any other person. We look forward to your support in ensuring that NLSIU continues to be a representative and inclusive institution, and ensuring that no student seeking legal education is deprived of the same, either before or during their course, on account of fee hike.

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