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Perhaps the best way to describe what a scholarship does for a student besides giving the recipient instant acclaim is that it gives him/her the opportunity to earn an education. For many, this is an absolute necessity. Without a scholarship, it would be the end of the road. But in all circumstances, whether dire or not, earning brings undiluted joy and immense pride. To earn your keep is to grow up, to take responsibility for your own self. This contribution is always valued, and increasingly so nowadays because higher education comes with a price tag that is directly proportional to how high you want to climb.

The two winners of the Tower Research Capital India Meritorious Scholarship for the year 2018-19 – Vedic Partap (B.Tech/CS/3rd year) and Vivek Gupta (Dual Degree/CS/3rd year) are thus mighty pleased with themselves. The scholarship of Rs 2 lakh each will help them pay their tuition fees. They will also get Rs 20,000 to buy books.

Vivek puts it simply, “Since the scholarship covers my tuition fees for a whole year, this would reduce the burden on my parents to pay for the fees. Also, this is a personal achievement since getting selected for such a merit-based scholarship amidst such a fierce competition of the whole campus (sic) is a feat in itself.”

The Tower Research Capital India scholarship is open to 2nd and 3rd year B.Tech students of three departments – Computer Science and Engineering, Electronics and Electrical Communications Engineering, and MSc in Maths and Computing. So Vivek may be going slightly overboard when he talks about the “whole campus”.

But he is not exaggerating when he talks about the “fierce competition”. Unlike many other scholarships, the Tower Research Capital India scholarship does not consider the financial status of parents for eligibility. This is purely a merit-based scholarship that takes into account the CGPA (at least 8.5) of the undergraduate candidate in the 2nd and 3rd year and the candidate’s performance in the Hacker Rank test. There are not many such purely merit-based scholarships to go around with such a handsome pay-off, and hence the competition for it is truly cutthroat.

The “fierce competition” also brings to the forefront another peculiar problem about the funding of higher education. Vedic puts the issue more squarely. He says, “There are many scholarships that focus on the ‘means’ factor like the merit-cum-means scholarships and other state/national scholarships. Due to my family income, I was not eligible for any of the scholarship. But that does not mean that paying a large tuition fee is not a problem for me.”

Besides, Vedic adds, “The competition for the scholarship also gives us a chance to show our knowledge.” Both Vivek and Vedic, since they are from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, had to respond to questions on web development and database, data structure and algorithms, operating systems and systems design.

The Tower Research Capital India Meritorious Scholarship ticks many boxes. It gives the recipient a tremendous sense of pride in his/her abilities. The added satisfaction is the ability to pay for his/her own education – and thus a not-to-be-messed-with sense of honour among the self-conscious, self-righteous, self-dependent millennials of today.

According to recent studies, the cost of education in India is increasing at an average of 15% per annum. Professional courses, which have become mandatory now, cost a packet. For example, the tentative cost of an MBA is up from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 20 lakh in 15 years. As a top official of a finance company pointed out, “Aspirations have increased, and thus people want to stretch, sometimes ever so slightly beyond their means to pursue higher education which is likely to change the trajectory of their careers and their earnings in the future.”

Both Vedic and Vivek do not discount the importance of merit-cum-means scholarships. But they do believe that purely merit-based scholarships are also important to encourage top achievers who would not qualify otherwise to keep their performance at par with the best. Vedic says, “Many of my friends are very capable and in great need of scholarships.” Vivek too believes that there should be scope to compete for scholarships that fund foreign trainings and internships for which there are often no reimbursements.

IIT Kharagpur has been trying to address the “need” that Vedic talks about by increasing the financial threshold for eligibility for some of the scholarships, many of them instituted by the Alumni. The IIT KGP Foundation of US has also started a scholarship for foreign internships from the financial year 2017-18. But, quite obviously, more needs to be done.

Vedic wants to go for higher education in computational neuroscience and Vivek is looking forward to a summer Internship next semester. Do they have any plans for making use of the money they will eventually save?

Oh yes! Vedic wants to use his internship pay (and any of the rest he could save) to buy a new laptop or perhaps go for a trip. And Vivek? He chirps, “After paying the tuition fee, I could use the rest of the money (from the scholarship), along with my internship pay, to buy a new hardware, may be a laptop for myself. But before all this, a gift for my parents tops my list as without their support, this would not have been possible.”


Banner: Suman Sutradhar

Graphics : Suman Sutradhar

By Chirosree Basu

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