Fees upfront, no-refund policy play spoilers
‘Fees once paid will not be refunded’ in fine print on the admission forms of most coaching classes deters most parents and their wards from withdrawing their applications.
So what happens if the quality promised by the classes is not delivered or when the student decides not to attend the class within a few days of joining?
When a student in Haryana, enrolled for the Indian Institute of Technology entrance coaching at a premier institute in 2006, he did not think much about the institute’s no-refund policy while signing the form.
But then, instead of Gurgaon, he was told to attend classes in Delhi at least 18 km away from his home. While the student had paid Rs 68,930 for two years in advance, he cancelled his admission a few months later as the class did not start in Gurgaon.
Despite many pleas, the institute refused to refund the fees which led to the student approaching the district consumer redressal forum. The district forum ruled that a refund of Rs 56,442 along with 9% interest per annum should be paid to the student along with a compensation of Rs 1 lakh. The order was upheld by both the state and the national commission in April 2013.
Closer home, another such case was filed against a coaching institute by a girl student who had paid Rs 88,792 as course fees in 2011 for standard XI and XII coaching after being promised by the class administration that the lectures will be in English.
Once she started attending, she realized that the teachers were using the local language and she decided to cancel her admission within a month. The coaching class refused to repay her money. The family filed a complaint with the Pune’s consumer forum. On September 17, 2014, the forum ruled that after deducting Rs 2,000 for the days when she attended the class and administrative charges, the rest of the fees should be refunded. The forum also told the coaching class to pay Rs 5,000 as compensation to the girl.
While experts said the law is always on the students’ side when it comes to fees refund, coaching classes claim that they take a big hit financially when students leave midway.
Nikhil Bhatnagar, student-mentor and admission manager at FIITJEE Pune, said the coaching class will be at a loss if the refund policy is allowed. “Our classes start in May. So if a student decides in August or September that he is unable to cope up with studies, and wants to quit, it is hard for us to refund the fees. Almost all students have by then joined various institutes and it is not possible to enrol anyone new midway. Secondly, it will also open the floodgates and make survival of coaching classes impossible,” he added.
Bhatnagar said parents must sit with their wards and discuss whether they really want to take IIT or medical entrance exams. “We also tell them to get an aptitude test done. The IIT or medical entrance preparations are tough. Juggling school and coaching is even tougher. We tell students what the entire course will entail and take an informed decision. If a student has a medical condition or if there is an extreme case, we send the matter to our Delhi office for further deliberations,” added Bhatnagar.
Durgesh Mangeshkar, director of IIT Pratishthan, said both parents and the coaching institute should be careful while understanding and stating terms about money. “Coaching institutes should write their terms clearly regarding the fees and give copies to the parents as it is the main point of contention,” he said.
Mangeshkar said in many instances fees is paid in cash and negotiations, and demand for discounts further leads to ambiguity and misunderstanding when a student wishes to leave.
Rajini B, parent of a standard IX student, said, “The no-refund policy is bad and affects middle-class families. Our income is limited and hence there is only a set amount earmarked for education. But if my ward refuses to attend an institute, it becomes hard for us to pay fees for a new institute. This is not just limited to coaching classes, even many colleges refuse to refund the fees. The government should look into this as education is most important for a middle-class family.”
Case in Pune 2012
The parent of a 17-year-old student had filed a case against an IIT-JEE coaching institute, for refusal to refund the fees after the student cancelled her admission.
“My daughter was a brilliant student till standard X, and she had studied in a convent school all her life. She faced difficulty in keeping up with the classes for competitive exams since technical subjects like physics and chemistry were not taught in English. I had forced her to take admission, as the institute was a popular one. They had taken the entire fees upfront, but refused to return any of it saying it was mentioned in the prospectus. We were ready to forego a month’s fees, but they would not listen. I decided to file a case against them with the consumer forum,” the mother said.
After two years, the consumer forum ruled in favour of the parent who had taken help from an education sector lawyer, and had directed the coaching institute to refund the entire fees of Rs 89,000.
“We got to know that children of many others had left the institute, but did not speak up, although they had to pay the fees again when the students joined other institutes. I urge every parent to fight for their rights as it is the question of their child’s career and their hard- earned money,” she added.
There is a dire need for regulations for coaching institutes, especially about the fees, minimum qualifications of teachers and the infrastructure. Students or parents can take legal action against a coaching institute if they are mis-selling through misleading advertisements and failing to keep their promises. Even if conditions for the refund of fees are not spelt out clearly or discussed, parents can demand a refund. Payments to anyone should be proportional to the services rendered. – Ravi Bhardwaj, education lawyer and founder Edulegal
It has become a trend to take the entre fees upfront as there are no guidelines. They face problems when students leave mid-course, which often happens. The coaching institutes also have no aid from the government, hence have no financial buffer to fall back on. – Durgesh Mangeshkar, director of IIT Pratishthan
The list included institutes which were providing coaching for MBA entrance exams – GMAT and CAT, for GRE, JEE among others.