I think it was sometime in May-June 2012 . I was on a city bus getting back home from whitefield (Bangalore). In front of me on the next row were two engineering students. A boy and a girl. They were from Bangalore and seemed to be pretty well grounded. They were returning back after attending an interview for some kind of scholarship. I overheard their conversation initially and quickly got involved in their discussion.
The discussion was about their tuition fee and other expenses involved for their education. I learnt that the fees for their college was something like Rs 45,000 per year. Not a small amount for Engineering education in Karnataka. I learnt that it was not easy for them to afford this kind of money.
I remember that when i finished my engineering , our fees was 9000 rupees a year. I understand now that , in the same college the fees for the same course is something like 40,000 rupees per year.
I am sure that many students who come to colleges in Bangalore can very well afford their tuition fees. But there are many people like the ones whom i met in the bus who face difficulty. There are many many more who do not even try for professional courses because they cannot afford the tuition fee. I know quite a few of them including my wife who turned down her medical seat in KIMS in 2002. I would have probably turned down my engineering seat if the fees in 2001 was 25,000.
Since then i am musing with this idea of Alumni groups playing a part in bridging the funding gap. My idea is something like this. Our batch passed out of college in 2005. Say in 2010 when everyone is reasonably well settled , we form an alumni group and collect small amounts from 30 people (Batch mates). Say we collect 1000 from each. That becomes 30,000 rupees for that year. With this We can fund one student for the year 2010. Next year, that is in 2011 we together pool 33,000 rupees. That will be take care of same student or another student for the year 2011. If the 2006 pass out students form an alumni association in 2011 and collect 33,000 rupees, that will help another student in 2011. So in 2011 we can fund two students. Like that in 2012 we can fund three students (From contributions of 2005, 06 and 07 batches). This can go on. At least half the class can be easily funded in a decade's time.
This is just an example . The alumni groups can be formed immediately after passing out. Many alumni groups can be formed together drawing students from various batches. There can be process refinement , tuning etc etc.
This would also help the old students to have a connection with the college and college folks. There can be potentially more academy-industry interaction and mutual learning. There could be more such cascading effects
I admit that all this is easier said than done. We were a very active, extraordinarily articulate and well knit group back in college. Few of our professors still admire us for our audacity and articulation. But getting people on board few years after college has been a challenge. But i genuinely feel this can be done. If every batch of students from every college in every branch commit to this idea, we can bridge the higher education funding gap to a large extent.