It is February again and like every year the lists come out with everyone's expectations from the Finance Minister. It's a different matter altogether that the expectations have not always been satisfied completely.
Here is what students expect from the Union Budget:
- Educational expenses: Dear FM, if one thing has grown faster than anything else in the last few years, it is the cost of education. Not just school fees, but college fees have grown faster than the growth of our parent's incomes. Yes, the government has been pushing banks for loans, but that alone is not the solution. We would be happy if you can give higher exemptions under section 80C for our parents. This would give a great relief to households where the educational expenses are by far the biggest component of monthly expenses.
- Educational loans: Although the government has tried to make educational loans easily accessible to students, it has been seen that getting one is not as easy as it is made out to be. The defaults committed by a few students have made banks wary of approving loans and hence the larger community has to struggle to get loans. If the Union Budget can create a framework which can not only enforce collection of repayments but also simplify and streamline the process of getting educational loans, there will be a sizeable growth in students joining higher education courses. This will also help the economy, which is today reeling under a manpower shortage.
- Section 80E has given relief to our parents on the interest paid. More focus on this too will help motivate our parents to use the opportunities to give us access to higher education.
- Education cess: Sir, a few years ago you introduced the education cess to generate revenues for boosting the education sector. But that was probably a short-term and short-lived strategy. The biggest challenge for students today is getting jobs in core sectors as those sectors are not growing as fast as colleges churn out students. Probably you should also focus on the adage "teach a man how to fish..." when looking at education. Greater support for the core sector will help the corporates put in more energy and more investments on higher education. This will not only boost the job opportunities, but will also help improve the quality of higher education and make this process sustainable. We may soon have a stage where our wish-list may contain requests to abolish tax benefits.
- Investments in public services: As a generation that is passionate about change in the country, the younger generation feels the need to give back to our country. There is a clear lack of leaders in the society, especially in politics. No budget in the past decade has spoken about higher education with respect to public services. Your team can put thought some on this and sow the seeds for promoting institutions for public education. Your seeds may be the starting point of a future successor maybe.
- Dear FM, we are sure you are equally aware that it is the last-mile connectivity that matters. As far as education is concerned it's mostly the state governments that implement most of the plans. If the budget can address the issue and give more freedom and funding to state governments, it could make the process more efficient. This would help create a stronger foundation in terms of strengthening the public school system.
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