While the number of colleges in the city has increased manifold over the years, there has not been a corresponding increase in the number of hostels. So, apart from worrying about securing a seat in a reputed institute, an outstation student has another concern — to find a suitable hostel accommodation.
Life at home and life at a hostel cannot be compared and we all know from experience that finding the right accommodation requires extra care and attention. "Ideally, one would look out for a hostel close to college if not the college hostel," says Divya Ruth Rose, student, Regina Pacis Convent Girl's Hostel. But apart from finding a place close to college all the other aspects too needs to be considered. "It has to have good facilities and should be safe," she adds.
Some colleges provide accommodation along with the admission. "Getting into hostels is mandatory once you have taken admission in an IIT," says Shantanu Dingre, general secretary hostel 3, IIT Bombay.
Mandatory campus hostels offer many advantages as students don't have to look for a place to live. "Though it's a 50 year old hostel it still is being maintained properly. The facilities are just brilliant; there is also a rule which says that final year students must get a single room, but this has not been applied for girls as there is a new girls' hostel under construction," he adds
Not all colleges provide mandatory accommodation though. St Xavier's College boy's hostel has around 60 seats for all streams. "The selection is based on merit and good behaviour," says Agnelo Menezes, hostel superintendent.
Though an internet search for hostels in the city lists around 35-40 options for girls and boys, getting into the campus hostels can be difficult as those vying for the seats include outstation students, international students as well as those from neighbouring areas such as Panvel. "The form sales starts from June 1 so if a student joins mid way for an exchange programme or regular course, accommodation will only be provided if someone leaves," he informs. Like St Xavier's College boy's hostel, SNDT Women's University hostel is also based entirely on availability of seats, merit, distance and the conduct of students approved by the authorities from time to time.
University of Mumbai accepts applications for any of its seven hostels only after the admission has been confirmed. "Each department is allotted a quota of seats for their students so based on that accommodation is provided," informs Mohankumar C. Kaimal, warden, International Students Hostel. This too is based on merit, however if a particular department has seats available then those seats can be shifted to another department. "Since the seats can be shifted from one department to another, the hostels hardly ever face shortage," he adds.
What happens when one does not get selected? "Campus hostels and regular hostels are comparatively cheaper and safer but with the increasing number of students and the lack of facilities, it is impossible to accommodate all," says Vinay Menon, former hostelite, YMCA hostel. He says that students are then forced to rent places which are more expensive as it generally does not include food. And if the apartment is far from the campus, travelling expenditure adds up. "Some PG's have a limit on the number of people sharing the room so splitting the rent is out of the question," he adds.
Not many students can afford to live in apartments. So what happens to those who do not fit the hostel criteria and cannot afford to rent apartments? Are we ready to let students give up education because we can't accommodate them? "Every college should have a hostel or at least be linked to some hostel so it becomes easier for students. New hostels need to be constructed considering that hundreds of students from other cities including the rural areas come to Mumbai to study," concludes Menon.