Parents ask for college fee waiver for self-financed students

Many parents have also taken to social media to share their plight

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has not only affected lives and livelihood, but it has also rendered parents of many self-financed students of the Royal University Bhutan (RUB) unable to pay their fees this time mainly due to loss of income.    

For Norbu Tenzin, a private contractor, his business has been severely impacted by the disruption caused by the ongoing pandemic and is very worried as the date to pay the fees of his two (self-financed) college children draws closer.

Likewise, Sherab Wangmo, who suffered 20% cut in her wage this month, is hoping if she could pay her daughter’s college fee towards the end of the semester.  

The two are among a number of other desperate parents who are hoping for some relief from the colleges by waiving a portion of their children’s fees, especially considering their predicament.

“Parents who can’t afford the fees during these difficult times should be given concession on the basis of their earnings,” said Norbu Tenzin, adding that the pandemic has taken a severe toll on their ability to earn a livelihood.  

Similarly, Tashi Dorji, a parent of a college student, mentioned how people employed in the private sector and those engaged in private businesses had to face the brunt of the frequent lockdowns, which led many to lose their life’s savings.

“The cost of living has increased dramatically, with skyrocketing prices rendering us helpless. I am the only earning member in my family and we are struggling to make the ends meet. Under these circumstances how am I supposed to support my child’s college education,” he said.       

Meanwhile, many parents have also taken to social media to share their plight, desperately hoping their plea would be heard by the concerned authority.   

“When relief packages are provided in the form of loan interest wavier, house rent reduction and Royal Kidu, why can’t the college waive a certain percentage of the fees?,” asked one parent.

 Another parent that Business Bhutan interviewed mentioned the added financial burden borne during the lockdowns as they had to frequently recharge their children’s cell phones for online classes, besides paying their college fees on time.

“Our children are not attending the regular classes like before and it would be unfair to charge the full fee,” she argued.

However, the management of the private colleges explained that the disruption of normal classes caused by the lockdowns should not be construed as a holiday period because they still have to pay their staffs, with their faculty continuing to deliver classes online, implying that the cost of running the institute has not reduced.  

But as an interim measure, colleges under the RUB have deferred the payment of the fees to the end of the semester, unlike earlier when the students had to deposit the same in the beginning. 

“But now universities are taking into account the position of the parents and keeping the payment flexible so that the students can pay the fees whenever their status improves before the semester end examination,” said the President of Sherubtse College.

Sherubtse College has around 18% self-financed students and the fees collected from them are used in covering staff salaries, hostel maintenance cost and other miscellaneous expenses.

“Hence waiving the fees will be difficult but we will look into the accounts of the students who are financially unsound and then try to manage the funds from the student welfare scheme,” he said, adding that the management cannot waive the fees entirely for auditing reasons.

When asked about the possibility of college fee waiver, an official from the RUB said that their office has not received any written requests for the same from the students.

Although the new semester for college began on February 14, students are taking online classes due to the lockdown.

The fees for self-financed students in the RUB colleges are between Nu 68,000-86,000 per year depending on the course they are enrolled in.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu