The Complex Challenge of College Dropout Rates in India Among SC, ST, and OBC Students

Over the past half-decade, a troubling trend has emerged, with more than 19,000 students hailing from Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), and Other Backward Classes (OBC) discontinuing their pursuit of higher education. This situation has prompted a closer examination of the underlying reasons driving these students to abandon their educational aspirations.

According to the Ministry of Education, this disconcerting statistic points to 19,000 students from these marginalized communities discontinuing their educational journeys across central universities, Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs between the years 2018 and 2023. Minister of State for Education, Subhas Sarkar, provided this revelation in response to a written query in the Rajya Sabha.

The available records reveal a stark reality – a total of 19,256 students chose to cease their education within these prestigious institutions. Among these individuals, 14,446 were affiliated with central universities, 4,444 with IITs, and 366 with IIMs.

These statistics reveal a substantial number of students discontinuing their education at IITs, raising concerns about the utilization of available seats and the factors driving these dropouts.

IIT Dropout Rates for SC Students:

  • 2019: 186
  • 2020: 287
  • 2021: 318
  • 2022: 229
  • 2023: 48

Overall IIT Dropout Rates:

  • 2019: 85
  • 2020: 104
  • 2021: 106
  • 2022: 98
  • 2023: 15

These statistics reveal a substantial number of students discontinuing their education at IITs, raising concerns about the utilization of available seats and the factors driving these dropouts.

While these statistics are indeed alarming, it is essential to delve into the multifaceted reasons that lead to such high dropout rates, particularly among students from underprivileged backgrounds.

Several factors contribute to this concerning trend, and one contentious issue is the perception that reservations and caste-based quotas are sometimes preferred over knowledge and merit-based admission:

1. Caste-Based Reservations: In India, affirmative action policies such as caste-based reservations have been established to ensure equal opportunities for historically marginalized communities. However, in some cases, there is a perception that these reservations can lead to a misplaced focus on securing seats based on caste rather than on merit or knowledge. This perception can create a sense of unfairness among students and may influence their decisions to pursue education elsewhere.

2. Reservation-Related Tensions: The reservation system in India has sometimes led to tensions among students from different backgrounds. This can result in a less-than-ideal learning environment and may deter some students from continuing their education.

3. Misalignment with Career Aspirations: Some students may feel that their interests and career aspirations do not align with the courses available through reservation quotas. They might opt to discontinue their studies to pursue their preferred fields in non-reserved categories.

4. Concerns About Stigmatization: Students from reserved categories may experience stigmatization, bias, or prejudice, which can create a hostile educational environment and lead them to withdraw from their courses.

The ramifications of a high college dropout rate are far-reaching. It exerts a detrimental impact on the economy, deprives individuals of valuable skills and knowledge, and fosters social challenges like poverty and crime.

Addressing this pervasive issue is pivotal for India’s future. Several steps can be taken to mitigate the college dropout rate, including making college more affordable through government financial assistance, enhancing academic preparation, providing counseling and support services to students grappling with personal problems, and offering academic support in the form of tutoring and mentoring programs.

To champion the cause of SC, ST, and OBC students, the government has introduced various schemes, including the waiving of tuition fees in IITs, the provision of national scholarships under the Central Sector Scheme, and extending scholarships in institutes, as elucidated by Minister Sarkar.

In summation, the substantial number of SC, ST, and OBC students relinquishing their higher education pursuits underscores a pressing concern. Addressing the challenges leading to these dropouts and ensuring that educational opportunities are fair and accessible to all students, regardless of their background, are essential to realizing the goals of inclusive and accessible higher education as outlined in the National Education Policy.


  • Shivam Singh

    Greetings, I'm the founding editor of Mithila Today. Writing is my lifelong passion, and I'm dedicated to creating content that educates and inspires. My goal is to foster understanding and dialogue through storytelling, providing a platform for meaningful discourse. Together, let's connect, inform, and inspire change in our society. Best regards, Shivam Singh

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