In what could change the face of higher education in the country, the government has been presented with two ambitious plans.
The first proposes that tuition fees of the top 10% performers passing out of school into undergraduate courses be paid for by the government. That means eight lakh students would benefit, irrespective of caste, religion, economic status and discipline (arts, commerce, science).
The annual benefit to a student would range from Rs 2,000-5,000 for a conventional degree in a government college to Rs 50,000 as charged by the IITs. The selected students would be free to study whatever they wanted in any state-run institution of their choosing.
According to estimates, more than 80 lakh students appear for 10+2 boards every year with about 8 lakh of them coming from CBSE.
Fees, or part of it, in select accredited private institutions could also be covered.
The financial requirement for the landmark proposal taking scholarships to an unprecedented level is to be worked out.
A related plan proposes that financial aid for educating the disadvantaged — scheduled castes and tribes, minorities — be increased four times from Rs 2,000 crore to Rs 8,000 crore.
Both the proposals have been worked out by the Planning Commission.
The government has set a target of increasing enrolment at the higher education level from the current 15% to 25% of the eligible population, which would mean four crore additional students in universities and other institutions.
Plan panel deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia had earlier said education and skill development would receive priority in the 12th plan.