Several schools are politely and tactfully trying to assess if parents who have applied for their child’s nursery admission have the ability to pay the fees.
This was first done after the first wave of the pandemic last year. This year, more schools appear to be assessing an applicant family’s financial profile before admission.
The questions to parents are about how they have been impacted during the pandemic. If the family has a business, they are asked how it has been running during the pandemic. If the parents have jobs, they are asked if they have suffered pay cuts.
If a sibling is in the same school and the fee is not cleared, the school asks the parents to contact the school office, a head said.
“We try to understand how they have survived during the pandemic and whether their businesses have been impacted. We do that through general questions without intimidating the parent but it helps the school to assess whether a parent can continue in the school,” said Terence Ireland, principal, St James’ School.
An assessment of the financial position of parents was also done before the pandemic but it has intensified now because many have defaulted on fees.
At least one principal said if the number of defaulters increased further, it would affect the school.
For many years, schools would ask for the annual income of parents but perhaps that is not enough anymore.
“We are trying to assess whether a parent who takes admission will be able to pay the fees regularly. If they ask for concessions later, it is difficult for the school,” said Bobby Baxter, principal, Julien Day School, Ganganagar.
“We diplomatically try to understand by asking them questions about their businesses, how it is running and their source of income,” he said.
An idea of what the business is also helps to understand the family’s financial position, he said.
In one school, a head said that they ask about whether it’s a nuclear or joint family and how many earning members there are.
“We read the body language of parents and we scan the information that they provide in the application forms. It helps us understand their financial position,” said S.K. Singh, the general manager of MP Birla Foundation Higher Secondary School.
At Birla Bharati School, if the parents do not submit details of their annual income, they are asked about it during the interaction.
One school head said the management could give concessions to genuine cases, but not to too many students.
On rare occasions, if the authorities think the family may not be able to afford the fees but have still applied, they ask more directly if the parents had seen the school’s fee structure.