Take admissions to colleges in Punjab for instance — eight of them under the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, three government run and four private ones and a private university.
The student with the highest NEET marks among those admitted into the private university had lower marks than the last student admitted to the open category in each of the government colleges. In the private university, the fees for the MBBS course are Rs 64 lakh compared to just Rs 4 lakh in the government colleges. While data for all states was not available, a similar pattern was evident in Tamil Nadu as well.
In fact, even within private institutions, those who got into the government quota of private colleges had the best scores, while private universities saw candidates with much lower scores gaining admission. It’s no coincidence that the tution fees for the government quota in private colleges is fixed at Rs 4 lakh for the course compared to roughly a crore in the private universities. To get a better sense of how exorbitant fees are lowering the standards of intake in medical colleges, consider this.
If all 60,000-odd seats were in government colleges, where the fees are not prohibitive, the last rank to get in would have been at worst in the range of 80,000 even assuming that one-third of the top 60,000 ranks opted out for various reasons. The 80,000th rank in NEET 2017 had a percentile score of about 92.6 and marks of 399 out of 720, or about 55.4%. Experts have suggested 1:3 as the ideal seats to eligible students ratio. That would have meant fixing the percentile cut-off so that about 1.8 lakh qualify.
In 2017, the cut-off would then have been 83.4 percentile, or roughly 295 out of 720 marks (41%).
The actual ratio achieved by the 50th percentile cut-off for general students and 40th percentile for reserved students was close to 1:10 with the lowest ranks even among general students getting as little as 131 out of 720 or 18%.
“Things have become much better with NEET, which stopped the completely unregulated MBBS admissions happening earlier. But to ensure that only meritorious students get in, the fees of these teaching shops that pass off as colleges have to be regulated so that students who perform poorly don’t use money power to defeat poor or middle class students who have scored much better. “The government also needs to open more medical colleges,” said Dr Raj Bahadur, vice chancellor of Baba Farid University of Health Sciences.
Jawaharlal Shanmugam, who has filed a public interest petition in the Madras High Court seeking fee regulation in all medical colleges, pointed out that when NEET was introduced, many private colleges increased their tuition fees to offset the ‘loss’ of capitation fees. “Thus they ensured that meritorious students without money would never get admission. The tuition fee is fixed arbitrarily to cater to only rich or super rich students. How can the government allow this when the Supreme Court had made NEET mandatory for even private colleges and deemed universities to ensure that medical admissions are merit based?” asked Shanmugam.