BEIRUT: Implemented by the Lebanese American University (LAU) seven years ago and now seriously considered by the Beirut Arab University (BAU), the billing in US Dollar policy adopted by the American University of Beirut (AUB) in June 2019 shocked students.
Post the dollarization of the American University of Beirut's tuition fees starting Fall 2019, representatives of the university's Secular Club and of other universities' student bodies, alongside MADA student network, held a press conference at the Legal Agenda on Monday, to further elaborate on their demands, that are said to be not thoroughly considered by AUB's administration.
"Even if the settlement of bills will continue to be possible in USD or Lebanese pounds at the market rate of exchange, according to the university's website, people still earn their checks in Lebanese pounds, so they will be paying way more in USD," said Dany Rashid, president of the AUB Secular Club.
Considering the important drawbacks this step will have on the student's future first and the country's economic safety and reputation second, Rashid noted: "We are asking the Ministry of Education and Higher Education to take responsibility and to intervene, to stand by the students amidst this battle, because it's responsible for our protection," adding: "We want to be billed in the Lebanese pound, our national currency. This is what enhances the Lira's effectiveness, and not the other way round."
AUB's administration is stressing that the tuition's dollarization is only due to joining the US-affiliated Common Application, an undergraduate college admission application, and adopting the application's procedure bill. However, a number of international universities joined the Common Application and kept their tuition fees payable in their national currency.
The AUB Secular Club also considers the University Student Faculty Council (USFC) and the administration partners in "misleading" them and "underestimating" their intelligence.
"The dollarization is due to the economic crisis, especially that this decision came in the year when economic indicators were at their lowest. We now fear a possible future devaluation of the Lebanese currency," said Rashid.
Whereas other universities like the Notre Dame University (NDU) are still billing their students in Lebanese pounds, extra-charging is always a must!
"We were surprised last week by a sudden rise of 10$/credit imposed on spring 2020 semester and an additional increase of 230,000L.L. in the Academic and Technology fee, without any clarification or justification coming from the administration. It's our right as students to understand and it's the administration's duty to explain," announced Georges Gabriel, representative of the NDU's Independent list.
Without forgetting the Lebanese University's (LU) involvement in student activism on a national level since its strike during the past months of May and June, Jawad Hamieh from the university's "Cultural Salon" stressed the importance of the student networks' unity.
"Today's administrative decisions are weighing on the students and these are the first indicators of the lack of trust in the national currency, and this is not how we hope our universities are like," adding: "This situation will unify students. I can't foresee fruitful nationwide student activism without that of the Lebanese University and the private institutions altogether."
On a similar note, a Saint Joseph University (USJ) student, Aya Abou Saleh, said: "The State is neglecting the country's only public university on one hand, and allowing excesses by private universities on the other hand."
Many university students protested in front of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education on August 22, under the slogan "We Won't Pay," declaring their refusal to pay the price for the country's corruption.
"Such decisions made by renowned Higher Education institutions like the American University of Beirut will badly affect the economy. Once these decisions are adopted, many other institutions will follow in this Lira's power regression, which will affect the purchasing power," Abou Saleh added.
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