Alumni and parents joined scores of students at the American University in Cairo to protest against the sharp increase of tuition fees, which many say are beyond their economic means.
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.
Students began protesting against the fee hike earlier this month when the university’s Executive Vice President for Administration and Finance, Brian MacDougall, announced via an email blast 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.”
In response to the backlash that followed MacDougall’s announcement, he and AUC President Francis Ricciardone held a “special forum” the following week in an attempt to address the situation and iscuss the university’s budget and the expected losses from the pound float.
However, students quickly grew irritated when Ricciardone and other AUC administrative officials focused on explaining the current economic situation in Egypt and 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.”
Concerned alumni and parents joined the angry students on campus to protest yesterday, after the administration failed to reach an agreement with the student body.
“It’s just a SHAME to see AUC administration abusing students and parents in such carless and disrespectful ways, particularly in such times with very high inflation and bad economic circumstances,” Ahmed Hendi, an alumnus, wrote on the Facebook event for the joint protest. “The fault is not [the administration’s]; the fault is ours for paying the money and staying quiet for a very long time and raising the university’s stature in the market.”
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.