Sunday, February 5, 2023

A sign of times: AUC students protest against university tuition fees

“Fees Must Fall” A group of the American University of Cairo students chanted on Thursday roaming the AUC campus in New Cairo demanding that the upscale University lower its fees as the Egyptian pound loses more and more of its value against the US pound.

The slogan of the protest was "Fees Must Fall"

It was not a big protest but from what I understand it is representing a group of students that is not small. 

@caravan_auc #HappenedToday ♬ original sound - The Caravan

Despite the administration of the AUC did not raise the fees in US dollars but in the Egyptian pound, they hit the ceiling for real. The annual fees went from LE 370,000 per year to LE 750,000 according to the latest estimations based on the US dollar price in Egypt.

In January, the administration of the AUC announced their final decisions about the tuition fees as it continues its support of the Student Tuition Emergency Fund. The administration seems to understand the situation they are facing, and I guess other Private Foreign Universities are facing the same challenge.

Still, as the Egyptian pound goes down, it will be a challenge for the students and the University administration too. Realistically speaking they must find a way to balance especially if the Egyptian pound continues its free fall. 

I expected this to happen because believe it or not the AUC students and families are Egyptians who suffer like the rest of us from the economic crisis. 

We are speaking about the Upper Middle Class and Upper Class that already began to feel the hell of the economic crisis more and more in the past three months. Last week, I have been hearing about some compounds’ residents in New Cairo who decided to collectively boycott poultry and eggs till their prices are down.

The small AUC students' protest was received on social media with mockery and gloat to be honest because we are speaking about the AUCians who are perceived to be the crème de la crème of Egyptian society.

In December during the same time many Egyptians were following the news of the IMF loan and the repercussion of ever-growing inflation, a Tiktok account called “AUC students” published a video asking a group of random students on campus, how much their allowances and some of their answers were shocking to many especially they hear teens saying that they have an allowance of LE 3000-7000 whether weekly or monthly.

@aucstudents How much is your allowance? #auc #aucstudentss ♬ original sound - Aucstudents

The video created an online uproar, but I think those who appeared in the video are now actually the minority and not the majority.

On the other hand, some attacked that group of students accusing them of “class hatred” because among the chants they chanted to other students “Why are you silent!? Are you father a thief?”

I hate to remind you and say that yes, among the AUC proud alumni, there are some financially and morally corrupted people whose parents are financially and morally corrupted people who also played a role in making Egypt reach the current situation above them corruption-convicted Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, the sons of late ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

This small protest could be the first documented protest resulting from the economic crisis recently. Needless to say, that small rally happened because it was on the AUC premises. I do not know if that small protest will be part of a bigger movement across private and international universities.

Another irony is that the Egyptian government hopes it attracts more students to the foreign Universities hub the New Administrative Capital is currently hosting. Coventry University has its fees in Sterling Pound and Nova University Lisbon has its fee in Euros.

The Egyptian government thought that it would attract that class of Egyptians that send their kids to universities abroad, but it forgot that many of those Egyptians abroad actually work besides studying to live abroad especially now.

Needless to say, the economic crisis came, and a new reality is here.

Already I feel that we may see a return to Egyptian Public Universities for certain classes next year if things continue going south.

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