Medical colleges charged extra fees of nearly Rs3 billion in three years, a new report saysAs some colleges received fees without providing bills, there has also been tax evasion.
A dozen medical colleges in the country extracted nearly Rs3 billion in additional fees from their students under different arbitrary headings in three consecutive academic years from 2015 to 2018, a probe conducted by the National Vigilance Centre revealed.
The centre’s finding comes at a time when MBBS students of different medical colleges are protesting against additional fees charged by their colleges, taking the college cost way beyond the amount set by the government.
The total additional fees charged by 12 medical colleges from their students totalled Rs2.85 billion ranging from Rs200,000 to Rs2.54 million per student annually.
“The figure is based on the extra fees charged by the colleges exceeding the ceiling set by the government,” said Dalnath Aryal, assistant spokesperson for the centre, an anti-graft body directly under the Prime Minister’s Office.
According to the report, the medical colleges have charged extra fees under 24 different headings such as admission, registration, affiliation, institutional, year promotion, clinical training, laboratory, lab and information, caution money, and extracurricular activities.
As per the Medical Education laws (ordinance in 2017 and Act in 2019) introduced in the last three years, no extra amount can be charged, as tuition fee covers all the components of fees to be paid by students, the probe report said.
Among the 12 colleges, Gandaki Medical College Teaching Hospital based in Pokhara charged the highest Rs519.82 million additional fees from its students from 2015 to 2018.
The Devdaha Medical College, Rupandehi, charged 38.99 million in additional fees.
The fee set for the academic year 2016-17 was Rs3.5 million for colleges inside Kathmandu Valley and Rs3.85 million for colleges outside the Valley. The fee was increased to Rs3.85 million for the colleges in the Valley and Rs4.24 million for colleges outside the Valley for the academic years 2017-18 and 2018-19.
The Cabinet on October 13 this year, decided not to change the fee structure for the current academic year 2019-20, except making a minor adjustment in line with the annual inflation rate last fiscal year.
The probe validates the claims of the agitating students that their colleges are fleecing them.
“The government has determined the fee structure by maintaining specific fee for each heading,” said Anit Sinha, general secretary of Medical Education Struggle Committee, a forum formed by the agitating students of different medical colleges. “But the colleges continue to charge us additional fees, disregarding the government.”
According to Sinha, some colleges have charged extra even on the fees to be received by the Tribhuvan University such as board exam fee and Nepal Medical College Registration fee.
Due to the ongoing protest, the MBBS exams for all years, except third year, have been postponed by nearly a month. The students on Sunday encircled the science building of Chitwan Medical College after their demand for refund was not met.
The students have complained to the chief district officers of concerned districts about the extra fees taken by their colleges with evidence.
SK Kanodia, managing director of Nepalgunj Medical Colleges, however, told the Post that the fee determined by the government has no scientific basis.
“The college cannot be run with the fee structure fixed by the government as the cost is so high, particularly on human resources,” said Kanodia. “I challenge the government to appoint a chief executive officer here and run the institute well. The government’s fee structure is so low, we cannot even afford to pay back our bank loans.”
His college is affiliated to Kathmandu University which has allowed colleges to charge fees as high as Rs4.99 million. But the vigilance centre said in its report the Kathmandu University does not have the authority to fix the fee.
“It should have followed the fee structure set by the government,” the report says.
The report also unearthed various irregularities involving medical college owners and universities.
According to the report, some medical colleges received fees from students without issuing any bills, which is illegal.
Student leaders allege that in order to extort extra fees, the colleges threatened to fail them in internal exams and deny them identification and library cards.
The centre has recommended an investigation into the properties of medical college owners and their relatives through the Department of Money Laundering Investigation.
“The extra fees we have reported is based on documents. The total sum might be higher as they have also charged the students without providing bills,” said Aryal. “So we have suggested an investigation into their property as per the anti-money laundering law.”