States of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh see a strange conundrum. While almost all students who complete class XII and all those who can afford to pay, end up getting into some higher education programme, tens of thousands of seats go vacant every year in professional and arts/science colleges in these States. Very few youngsters, who can afford it, choose not to enter college.
So, although seats are available, lakhs of students do not pursue higher education as they cannot afford it. Alternatively, the problem may lie in not having access to a college or university. Or the learners feel the quality of education is not up to the mark.
Look at the other side. The Union government wants to increase the gross enrolment ratio to at least 30 per cent in the next five – six years. (Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) is the ratio between youth population in the 17 – 25 age group and the number actually enrolled in higher education institutions). Overall, only about 20 per cent of the relevant age population in India is enrolled in higher education. Tamil Nadu is relatively better off, as its GER is already 30 per cent.
A GER target of 30 per cent translates into bringing 35 million young people within the higher education ecosystem — a mammoth task in terms of cost of infrastructure, systems, processes and recruiting the faculty. Still, there is no guarantee that the education that’s delivered will be affordable and accessible for all rural students, or be of reasonable quality.