1st Learn-Earn-Return Fellowship Awarded to 3 IIT KGP Students based on IIT JEE

By Swapnil Verma, PR Manager   |   Wednesday, 24 January 2018, 10:31 Hrs
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IIT Kharagpur is the first among the Indian Institutes of Technology to begin Learn-Earn-Return Fellowship for its students. The institute has recently awarded the same to three students, currently studying in first year. The award was instituted in 2016 by Professor P. P. Chakrabarti, the Director of IIT Kharagpur. The alumni of the institute crowd-funded the fellowship.

The students who received the award are Jyotisman Das, Jyoti Agrawal and Rathin Singha, all belonging to the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. The students are to receive a minimum of INR 10,000 every month for four years. When the first semester of the first year is completed, the students will be granted the fellowship on the basis of their score in Advanced JEE. It is mandatory for the students receiving the fellowship to score a CGPA or Cumulative Grade Point Average of 9 out of 10 from second semester onwards. The fellowship was introduced during the Annual Alumni Meet held on January 13th, 2018. More than 300 IIT KGP alumni attended the occasion. 
Professor Chakrabarti in an interview said that the vision of the Learn-Earn-Return (LER) Fellowship was to inculcate the idea of giving back to the future generations of IIT KGP students as an alumnus after receiving the support in the form of financial aid and assistance while studying at IIT. According to Professor Chakrabarti, the LER Fellowship represents "a full circle of life". 

The total number of donors to the fund for the fellowship program are about 120 alumni, currently working in India and abroad. Jyotisman Das, one of the recipients of the award said, "LER is unique in the way that it enables us to meet various expenses associated with academics and research projects. I have taken the pledge to give back to my Alma Mater as I grow in my life".

Jyoti Agrawal, another recipient commented stating "I am elated with the fellowship as it is an honour to stand in front of the alumni and be recipient of their care and affection for us. Also, I feel the girls in the country and their parents should know about it and feel motivated to pursue career in engineering". 

Rathin Singha, the third and final recipient of the fellowship expressed his gratitude at a financial burden having been lifted, which would help him focus on his studies better without having to worry about finances.  

The singular aim and objective of the Learn-Earn-Return Fellowship Program is to create a system of support for students requiring financial assistance which would imbue into students receiving the assistance an inclination towards giving back to their communities when they are well-settled in their respective lives. Students receiving the benefits under this fellowship program need to take a Pledge of Honour promising to give back to their Alma Mater when the time comes.  

The practice of giving back has already begun in the institute with the 120 alumni contributing to the funds needed for the fellowship to take off. This practice has brought about transformation on all levels of the institute. The primary impact of the program however, has been on student performance. Students find themselves highly motivated and willing to perform and achieve excellence with the program put in place.  The more alumni participation there will be in the future, the better the culture of giving back can be inculcated in the institute.   

The program features a graded funding system where funds will be dispensed gradually on the basis of merit of the students and their economic condition. The amount granted to a particular student will be decided on the basis of the available funds. A student with exceptional academic background may even get a complete waiver of fees. Students ranking within the top 100 while admission to IIT KGP may also avail the benefit of a full waiver of fees. The funding however, will remain floating and would be contingent on the performance demonstrated by the student with the passage of each semester.  

The official website of IIT KGP specifies the unit amount of donation to be accepted from the alumni. 1 unit is equivalent to INR 10,000 and in order to provide a year's worth of funding to a student, about 20 units are required. Alumni may choose to donate one unit or as many units as they wish on a recurring basis.  

Learn-Earn-Return scheme is rather a relief to students studying in IIT KGP and operating under a very tight financial budget. It is particularly great news after the latest increase in fees which shot up the fees payable by students by 22% in the middle of 2016.  

“Our alumnus Vinod Gupta came up with the idea of giving back and our director Professor P. P Chakrabarti designed the detailed scheme.”, said an official of IIT KGP.  

Although the conditions to be met remain stringent and difficult to accomplish, the scheme is nonetheless a useful tool in the hands of many aspiring students and existing students, willing to strive for excellence. The systems in place in IIT KGP do not allow any scholarships or grants to students with serious backlogs. Also, students against whom disciplinary proceedings have been conducted are also disqualified from receiving assistance.

The students receiving the grant under the fellowship program may need to teach fellow students or juniors as per the Peer Assisted Learning Program in IIT KGP. Recipients of the fellowship may also be required to work as an intern in the institution, choose to become a research assistant, or engage in other work within the institution.

Schemes such as the LER are not found in any other IITs in the country. Director of IIT KGP, Professor Partha Pratim Chakrabarti said, “We would first evaluate the level of success of the scheme at our institute. Currently such a proposition is not under consideration.” when asked if IIT KGP is planning to propose the LER Fellowship model to the other IITs or the Ministry of Human Resource Development.


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