Handicapped by the government's opposition to any hike in fees, many colleges affiliated to the Mumbai University facing a funds crunch are cutting expenses on library and cultural facilities.
Some of these 750 institutions are under so stretched on finances that they are even considering trimming salaries of teachers in their self-financed courses.
"We have not been allowed to hike the fees since 2007. We don't get any grants for non-teaching expenses. Now we are left with no other option than to cut the expenses for co-curricular and extra-curricular activities," said a principal of a suburban college.
These colleges, which are conducting undergraduate and postgraduate courses, have repeatedly argued for a hike in fees, but a decision has been stalled due to opposition from teachers' and students' bodies.
In April, the university finalised a 25 per cent hike and it had planned to review the matter with principals and student organizations this month. But it seems that the proposal may be dumped altogether due to pressure from the state government with an eye on the forthcoming assembly elections.
Any hike would affect more than 3.5 lakh undergraduate students. "A fresh review would be taken only after the assembly polls," said a highly placed official.
One professor explained that the number of books required has doubled since the implementation of the semester-based credit system. "But the library fee has stayed at Rs250. So now we are buying fewer copies," he said.
Faculty of self-financed courses like BMS, BMM, BBI, BSc biotech might also get lower packages this year. They are paid between Rs8,000 and Rs25,000, depending on the college.
Sunil Mantri, principal, NM College, said, "We spend Rs18,000 to Rs20,000 a year on each student in BMS, but the university structure allows us to charge only Rs10,000. How do they expect us to run the college?"
For some science colleges that have a large number of vacant seats the crisis is more severe.
Naresh Chandra, pro-vice-chancellor, Mumbai University, said all stakeholders would be given a hearing before any decision is taken. Asked about the fee hike proposal, he said, "There is no such proposal as of now." But he did not react on whether there was any pressure from the government against the proposal.