Hundreds of students at the American University in Cairo (AUC) held a protest on campus on Monday to rally against the sharp increase of tuition fees, which many students say are beyond their economic means.
Brian MacDougall, AUC’s Executive Vice President for Administration and Finance, said in an email to AUC students on Thursday that the Central Bank of Egypt’s decision to float the pound earlier that day would affect the university’s revenues and expenses but that the administration “[does] not yet know the full impact.”
MacDougall also announced that a “special meeting” would be held on Monday to “begin a series of discussions about the impact of the economy of AUC” and reiterated that the administration is “keeping open all lines of communications.”
However, the public forum left most students frustrated with the administration for “not giving any solutions,” AUC student Nouran Allam told Egyptian Streets.
AUC President Francis Ricciardone attempted to discuss the university’s budget and the expected losses from the pound float but students quickly grew irritated when Ricciardone and other AUC administrative officials focused on explaining the current economic situation in Egypt.
The president said that the university is “committed to lowering costs” but some students said that the university has implemented budget cuts several times in the past and that the quality of education and services has severely deteriorated.
Ricciardone also refused to answer one student’s inquiry on whether tuition would go up another EGP 35,000 next year, saying that it was a “ridiculous question” because he had no way of knowing the price of the pound to the dollar in a few months.
According to Allam, the students decided to start protesting directly after the forum. The students chanted various statements in unison, including “My father is not a thief, you are the thieves.”
According to AUC’s Student Union, the administration decided to increase tuition fees following the pound float, pushing the cost of a 15-credit semester to EGP 110,000 – up from EGP 80,000 – while an 18-credit semester, which previously cost EGP 97,000 is now going to cost EGP 134,000.
AUC students have protested against tuition fees several times in the past. In 2013, then-President of AUC Lisa Anderson announced that the university was facing a budget deficit of USD 9.7 million, which was forecast to reach USD 13 million during the spring semester of the following year.
The administration at the time announced that it would implement a number of measures to address the deficit, including placing a cap on salaries, implementing a hiring freeze and raising tuition and service fees.
Following protests from the student body, an agreement was reached that would see tuition fees increase at a maximum rate of 2.3 percent per year for returning students.
The administration later decided to express tuition fees half in EGP and half in USD, while allowing Egyptian students to pay for the USD half in EGP at the official exchange rate. International students, meanwhile, were obliged to pay the entirety of the fees in USD.
The university also canceled merit-based scholarships, which spelled disaster for many students who do not have the financial means to pay for tuition at AUC – Egypt’s top English university – and work to secure a scholarship through a high grade point average instead.
Meanwhile, students have grown irate with the administration for failing to maintain the quality of services offered at the university, while also incurring what some see as unnecessary costs for things such as the construction of new fountains and a grand inauguration ceremony for Ricciardone, who recently became AUC’s president.