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University Students in Cairo: Graduating Is a Dream Crushed by the Dollar | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A trader works at the Egyptian stock market in Cairo, October 28, 2008. REUTERS/Amr Dalsh

Cairo- A young and persevering Egyptian scholar, Samer, joined the American University in Cairo three years ago in hopes of fulfilling his late father’s wish of him becoming a distinguished engineer. What he did not see coming was that his dream would shatter right before his eyes.

Savings left behind by Samer’s father have nearly run out before him reaching his graduating semester.

“My chance to get a scholarship, is my last hope to graduate …so is the case with hundreds of students here,” said Samer.

“I have applied for a scholarship, but if I’m turned down, I’ll need to transfer to Alexandria and join my brother at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport.

“It goes against my father’s will for me to graduate at the American University, but I have no other choice,” Samer said with bleak disappointment cracking through his words.

“I’m caught in a crunch, 9,800 Egyptian pounds should be paid at the end of each semester…not to mention the rocketing city living expenses,” Samer explained.

Samer’s suffering reflects the suffering of many other university students in Cairo, which was exasperated after the currency crisis seeing the dollar exchange rate take unprecedented hikes against the Egyptian pound.

All the more, the university’s decision to increase campus expenditure came for academic year 2017-2018 further burdened students and their families.

However, a glimmer of hope promises to ease the suffering of students. Egypt’s Administrative Court recently ruled that university offices must receive tuition fees in Egyptian currency alone, but the provision still awaits implementation.

“For 95 years, the university accepted tuition fees in Egyptian pounds until it issued a decision in 2014 stipulating that 50 percent of expenses should be paid in dollars under an exchange rate of 7.5 pounds to a dollar announced by the Central Bank,” a petition filed by 60 student guardians against the Egyptian prime minister, the speaker of parliament, the minister of higher education, and the president of the American University read.

“I do not expect the university mitigating the financial burden of students,” Amjad, majoring in communication said.

“I attended the meeting that followed the crisis between the plaintiffs and the university,” he said justifying his pessimism.

“It is a step forward, to pay using the Egyptian pound, but it is still a hefty expense to be accounted for by our families,” he added.

Students suffering in established Egyptian universities is no less than the suffering of students in other universities who had their families’ financial status seriously threatened by crippling market rates. Overnight, they woke to find their future at great stake.