AUB Tuition Fees: Where Do You Go Now?

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. 


Pink – A Short Movie by Lebanese High School Students Inspired by This Blog

Little did I know back when I wrote about my mother’s cancer diagnosis in October that it would inspire a couple of Lebanese students from Batroun to turn my post (click here) into a short movie of sorts.

But Rita Assal and Steve Khattar, helped by a few of their friends including my brother, did. Rita Assal and Steve Khattar are senior (terminale) students at St. Joseph School – my old school – in Batroun. They both want to get into movie-making and I wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors.

They will also be hosted on LBC this coming Monday on the show “Helwi el Hayet” (or whatever it’s called nowadays) whose producers were very impressed with their work.

The video itself is not perfect but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the ambition behind it – the fact that with limited equipment and expertise, students who had never learned movie-making before were able to shoot, edit and have voice overs done. I am also flattered that mom’s story was the catalyst that led to this.

I leave you with Pink:

Who Won the AUB Elections?

Picture via @WMNader

Back when I was an AUB student, I used to get carried away with the politics of it all. Voting for this party or that will help change things on a bigger scale – I was convinced with that. And I always sought to win, at least during my first two years there. March 14th called themselves Students At Work and they’ve been that way since. March 8th change their name every year. The independents are not really independent and they’ve also become divided. You should also never count out the Jordanians and Palestinians and their sectarian voting.

During my third and last year of undergrad there, I realized that voting for this party over the other – at least in university elections – was ridiculous. My goal as a student was not to take political stances that absolutely no one would care about post the regular 24 hours news cycle. I should be voting for someone who would really try to help me as a student in my university woes. So that last year at AUB, I voted for a mixed list that included a candidate from Amal, a candidate from the LF, a candidate from the PSP and an independent candidate. I had even left an empty spot for lack of “qualified” candidates.

One thing that can be said about my AUB years is that you could always tell who won. As they separated students in front of West Hall with two huge screens and about one hundred security men, you only needed to count the chants, exclude the political ones, to know who won which seat and then follow the winning group to Main Gate and Bliss Street.

But it has stopped being this simple. Every year since, everyone seems to have won AUB. For instance, yesterday’s headlines read:

LF: A tie at AUB with a win in the “fortress” of the FPM.

FPM: A win at AUB. 

And I asked myself the question: who won AUB?

Both sides will extrapolate the AUB elections onto parliamentary elections they both hope they’ll win. The FPM will read into this as them being a majority nationally. The LF will read into this as them being a majority on the Christian field. Both assertions are absolutely unfounded and ridiculous – but they will be made anyway. The students of both sides have already begun celebrating with Facebook statuses and celebratory tweets. We won, we won. All is well. Yay.

With rising tuition fees and a growing disconnect between students and administration, I can say without a doubt that who won AUB yesterday was not the students. Sure, it was a manifestation of free opinion, of democracy, of whatever rhetorical uselessness that gets you to sleep at night. And those students are entitled to their opinion, of course. Let them vote whichever way they want.

The problem is all of these students voting because of their political opinion don’t know exactly exactly how low the attendance in student representative council (SRC) meetings will be once those students they elected start “working” and how little they’ll actually do towards getting them that coveted unlimited printing or whatever promise they gave. And I knew this first hand back in my days: students win and eventually forget they did, until it’s time to mention it on their CVs. Some, from both sides of the political spectrum, rarely skip a meeting. And they try to change things. But they are always faced with an administration that counts on those who absolutely couldn’t care less outside winning and flexing their popularity muscles around.

As AUB students cast their vote against the weapons of Hezbollah or for the weapons of Hezbollah in that university ballot, they were all forgetting one key thing: how will their parents keep paying their rising tuition fees, along with all those university rising costs that are correlated with them? How do they feel about a lack of transparency with their professors and with their administration? How do they feel about AUB remaining the way it is for years and years without change?

Then next year will roll around. And all of these students will still be nagging about the same old things: where’s our unlimited printing? And then they’ll vote the same way again because a vote in AUB is one Hezbollah weapon removed or a firm message for the resistance.

You want to know who won AUB? It’s the status quo that both political camps in the country can erroneously analyze into a vote of trust from the youth that will most definitely be voting for them next year. But hey, it’s not like the “independent” alternative is much better either, with their hypocrisy, their under the table dealings with these political groups they’re challenging and lack of drive to work as well.

I guess we can really say it’s hopeless. The point is: voting for a political party is not a wrong thing to do… if you’re doing so for university reasons, not because some cosmic entity out there is out to get you. It is that courage of voting for someone who differs from you politically, simply because they are better qualified, that everyone seems to lack – and it’s easiest to vote as such in university elections, where your vote really doesn’t matter.