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Seats on sale in southern colleges
- Three-day education fair comes a-calling with donation route to dream degree

Money matters more than marks, is the message from across the ‘booking’ counter of the South India Education Fair at the Ice Skating Rink. Capitation fee might have been scratched out by the Supreme Court, but anything between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 7 lakh as “donation” or “development fee” is the going price for a seat in one of the coveted tech colleges down south. And the rush is resounding.

With the announcement of the Higher Secondary results on Friday, dealers in medical, engineering and management degrees are camping here to catch their prized prey — students who have failed to crack the competitive entrance examinations but haven’t abandoned their dreams to be an engineer, a doctor or an MBA.

Around 30 educational institutions — most from Karnataka, some from Tamil Nadu and Kerala — have set up stalls at the three-day education fair. “For a bachelor’s degree in electronics and communication, you will have to pay Rs 300,000 besides the tuition fee of Rs 60,000 and hostel charges,” says the official manning the East West Institute of Technology stall. Handing out a slip of paper with details of the fee structure for the BE course 2003-04, he asks all those interested to meet him in Room 107 of a south Calcutta hotel “before July 26”, to seal the deal.

“We take 80 per cent of the students through admission tests. But the remaining 20 per cent is management quota, for students who fail to clear the entrance tests,” is the explanation. Affiliation to the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), placement assistance, hostel facility and availability of both north and south Indian food are among the justifications for the price premium.

Seats are not just on ‘sale’ at individual college counters; consultant camps are at hand to guide aspirants through the money-over-marks maze. “This is the list with ratings of the colleges throughout the country. Select the college, admission is our responsibility,” promises the man behind the counter at the Bangalore-based Career Consultancy & Management stall. When asked about the admission fees for a computer science course in a reputed Bangalore college, click comes the answer: “You will have to pay a donation of Rs 5 lakh over and above the tuition fees. But if your budget doesn’t permit that, there are other less-rated colleges.”

From escorting a Calcutta student to Bangalore, enrolment in a college of ‘pocket’ choice and accommodation with “decent” company, Career Consultancy & Management is a one-stop admission shop. “Our charge is Rs 25,000. We don’t want more money, we are interested in more leads,” smiles the seller of tech seats.

The Rural Engineering College stall, however, plays it by the book. “No Donation” screams the computer screen; Rs 55,000 to Rs 60,000 per year is the asking rate for a bachelor’s programme in computer science and engineering; payment is by demand draft. At several other stalls, method is a mirage, merit a misnomer. Degree dreams are on sale and there are takers aplenty. “There are no jobs here. If we can go to Bangalore, the chances of getting a job will surely brighten,” sums up a student seeking a ‘break’ at the fair.

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