The Finance Minister has proposed a 10 percent tax on private educational institutes in the National Budget for the upcoming fiscal year. While this was done to alleviate the budget deficit, you may easily guess what this means for students and their families.
Private universities are considered “non-profit” organisations. Is it justified to impose any sort of VAT on them? Leaders of APUB (Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh) are baffled by these conflicting messages from the government. These institutes hardly get facilities from the government. Moreover, the lack of seats in the public universities is what causes many to enrol in private universities in the first place.
This decision to levy taxes on the private education sector will hit the middle-class families of the country pretty hard. The rising tuition fees already deter many students from pursuing higher education in private universities. On top of that, the added tax would cause many families to avoid sending their children to these institutes.
“After completing my O/A Levels, I had planned to apply in a private university but my parents are completely against the notion,” says Samia Mallick. “According to them, the expenses would be skyrocketing soon. They are not even allowing me to sit for the admission tests.”
According to the UGC, there are 85 private universities and 64 private medical institutes where about 5 lakh students are enrolled. In 2010, when the government had proposed a tax of 4.5 percent, students participated in demonstrations in the capital – forcing them to rescind the decision. However, on the onset of the recent decision, disapproval and anger will definitely spark among the student community.
Nusaiba Mirza, a student of NSU, says, “Higher tuition fees mean it gets harder on my parents if I take a lot of courses together in one semester. I’ll have to take fewer classes per semester, so it might take me longer to graduate. I can’t possibly go for a dual-major now, either.” Those sentiments are shared by many other students. Tuition fees in private universities range from around BDT 40,000 to 80,000 per semester/trimester for a student on an average, depending on the number of credits. The recent proposal would certainly hike the overall cost of education by a large amount. The duration for graduation may become prolonged for many, and some may decide to entirely discontinue their undergraduate programme.
“I think it was an unwise move. The cost of private education is already beyond the reach of many,” says Monzu Naznin, a lawyer and a mother of two sons studying in a leading private university. “This means that students have to pursue more part-time jobs alongside studies, while parents must strive to earn more.” Many university students already juggle classes and part-time jobs. The study-work balance is most likely to see some tipping of the scales in the near future.
This move might also be perceived as discriminatory. Students who do not get admission at public universities would be presented with only two choices: studying at costly private institutes or studying abroad which is even more expensive. An enraged parent, Sirazul Islam, says, “This is absurd. Why should private universities pay VAT while public universities remain free of any such expenses? Why can’t the government arrange more public university seats before causing such inconvenience to the citizens of our country? Will reducing the price of tobacco help our students?”
Instead of a reduction in expenses, the general public will now struggle to cope up with the rising costs of quality education. Bangladesh cannot prosper if the road to higher education is blocked by monetary constraints. The student community of Bangladesh desperately urges the government to reconsider this decision.
Muhammad Muhtasim Jawad is your next-door superman and he needs you to get him his cape. Your curtain will work too. Shout at him on facebook.com/jawad.muhtasim or firstname.lastname@example.org