I attended AUB from 2007 till 2010. Back in my days, which were not that long ago, we used to pay for 12 credits only even though we were able to register a maximum of 17 per semester.
I thought the system as it stood back then was great – it allowed me to be a full-time student and graduate on time without overburdening my parents with paying for every single credit that I was forced to take in order to count for the 90 required to get that coveted diploma. In 2010, however, AUB decided they were going to enforce new regulations that would raise the 12 credit standard to 15 for those enrolling in the upcoming semester.
I was graduating that year so it didn’t affect me. But I couldn’t disassociate myself from the notion that those who would come after me would be victims of these regulations that were not only unfounded at the time, but were also supported by baseless arguments that are still being used today. So as part of the AUB student body back then, we had a mass protest across campus. We boycotted classes. We paralyzed the university. We all participated. Then those heading the movement blew it by letting politics seep into it and the movement soon crumbled due to the too many heads that wanted to become leaders and instead of abolishing the tuition fees regulations, we simply postponed them. And they called it a victory – the students who slept on the floor outside College Hall for nights, however, did not. And those generations for whom we protested back then are receiving the short end of the stick we knew they would today.
Ever since I graduated, tuition fees at AUB have increased by 37%, at about $5000 per academic year. The increase includes another 6% hike this year. Technology fees for internet and connectivity on campus have also gone up by 50%. Wasn’t internet supposed to be getting cheaper in this country?
AUB is proud of its financial aid situation. Most applicants receive financial aid, they say. Bu there’s a huge difference between receiving aid in principle and the amount of aid a student gets: a 10% financial aid counts towards the former statistics. But is 10% enough?
AUB personnel who are handling these tuition increases justify them as due to the “increasingly bad economic situation in the country which necessitated such increases in order to keep AUB functional.”
The economic situation is touching everyone. I know of families who are well-off whose situation has deteriorated so rapidly lately that they’ve decided to simply leave. We have no government. Unemployment is reportedly at 42%. Isn’t this also affecting the parents of the students who are supposed to pay those fees? Is it plausible to have American-type fees in a country where the average income doesn’t come close to the American average?
I guess this is what comes when student elections are more about politics and which political side wins than about those who actually work. As long as this party or that gets a majority at the Student Representatives Council and the USFC later on, everything is okay. There are no issues to raise, I suppose. Where is that free printing again?
It’s easy to dismiss all of this as simply “if you can’t afford AUB, then don’t consider it.” And for the majority of Lebanese people, this is the case. We’d also be delusional to believe that the students attending AUB are people who cannot afford it. But is that also enough reason to simply not talk about the issue and let such tuition prices rise go unchallenged, excluding the portions of Lebanese society that could have, at one point, afforded giving their children the best education that Lebanon could provide?
As an alumnus, there’s not really much I can do. But how about AUB students who are now nagging about these increases actually ask themselves, come November, when they’re voting: AUB tuition fees, where do you go now? Perhaps then they can form a student body that can create a road map to let people know which class of Lebanese gets access to Green Oval and that ugly Zaha Hadid building.