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AUC students fight tuition hike
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 09 - 11 - 2016

American University in Cairo (AUC) students have been demonstrating since Monday 7 November against rising tuition fees. Fifty per cent of the university's fees are paid in dollars and 50 per cent in Egyptian pounds.
More than 1,000 angry students gathered on the university campus chanting "AUC thieves, my parents are not" and "We need a solution, and we won't back off".
Some of them held banners while marching around the university expressing anger against university policy. Student Union (SU) members exhorted students, telling them that they were the decision makers and power behind the changes that should be made, and that they were paving the path by their presence and should have their voices heard.
Ahmed Mansour, SU strategic relations director, said no resolution was not an answer. "We need a solution that safeguards us and our families from the tuition increase crisis, because our education is a right and not a luxury. Our collective act marks the first step towards the change we want, and the demands that will be realised. We respect the right to get the education you pay for and we support that," Mansour said.
According to Mansour, students are asking for short-term and long-term solutions. "There are students who pay tuition fees during the semester in three installments. These students paid the first two according to the rate of the dollar at that time which was LE8.88 to the dollar. The remaining installment should be paid according to the old rate, not the new one which is over LE17 a dollar."
Mansour added that if students paid according to the new dollar price, it would be unfair. Long-term solutions, according to Mansour, are to fix the dollar rate for students who are already enrolled in the university at LE8.88 and instead of paying 50 per cent of university fees in dollars, this should be decreased to 30 per cent. "Fees accordingly should be 30 per cent in dollars and 70 per cent in Egyptian pounds. The university should apply the rise of the dollar rate to newcomers, not students already enrolled," argued Mansour.
"The SU will urge students to boycott all university outlets so that those in charge of outlets would pressure the university administration to decrease the fees. We are asking now for the support of university professors to back us in our demands. They could be another source of pressure on the administration. We will also ask them to boycott university outlets," added Mansour.
AUC President Francis Ricciardone addressed the AUC community by acknowledging understandable demands for a solution. “Today we acknowledge the stressful reality that there is no single simple solution,” Ricciardone said in an email to the university. “Indeed, while we expect that prices expressed in Egyptian pounds will continue to rise in the new environment of a floating currency, we cannot predict by how much tuition will increase on any given date.
“We are studying our budget — and the law — hard to accomplish both objectives. Given the national emergency circumstances within which AUC operates, we are looking for both short- and long-term solutions that lie outside our normal budgetary and management abilities and requirements.”
According to Ricciardone, for the immediate future, “let me reassure our parents and students that we will find operational and fiscal solutions so that no current student will have to withdraw for inability to meet the tuition payments due on 20 November, at the Egyptian pound prices determined previously under the former fixed exchange rate. We are studying all options to accomplish this relief for those families unable to meet those payments.
“In the coming days and weeks we will be meeting with the Parents Association, students, faculty, staff and others. We will also be watching carefully for the full implications on AUC and for how we, like the rest of Egypt, will work through the current challenges. We have scheduled two provost lectures on 21 and 23 November, where we will bring faculty and outside experts to talk through the current economic situation and expectations for the future," Ricciardone said. He said that just deferring the immediate problem can satisfy no one. “We also must find solutions to carry us past what we expect will be a medium-term national emergency, before longer-term growth and free availability of foreign exchange result from the floatation of the Egyptian pound.
“Finding these longer term solutions for AUC's families and employees alike will take more time, and much more communication and hard work among all of us concerned. But together, we will find those solutions. We are determined that our students will complete their AUC education, and we will sustain its excellence and value," he added.
SU student Mansour called Ricciardone's statement “nonsense because he did not mention any credible and accurate solutions. All what he said is 'we are studying…' This means there will be no clear solution for students. We will escalate and continue our strike until we reach a solution," Mansour said.
In 2012, several AUC students locked the university's gates in protest against high tuition fees. The university remained closed for close to three weeks before a deal was reached between the students and the university's then president Lisa Anderson.


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