Students in Lebanon have taken two top universities to court over their decision to adopt a new dollar exchange rate to price tuition. The move resulted in a major increase in what tuition costs and jeopardized the education of many who no longer can afford to complete their degrees.
The controversy was triggered earlier this year when the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese American University decided to price tuition based on an exchange rate of 3,900 Lebanese pounds to the dollar. The nose-diving currency is still officially pegged at 1,500 per dollar but in late July it cost more than 23,000 pounds to buy one dollar on the black market due to Lebanon’s worst economic and financial crisis ever. (See a related article, “Lebanon’s Double Crisis Crushes Both Students and Universities.”)
The students filed lawsuits when the university threatened to deregister them for failing to settle their fees at the increased rate. Many have made the payments to a notary public according to the original rate, but the bid was rejected by the universities.
“We are protesting against the university’s unilateral decision to raise the tuition without prior consultation with the student council,” said Rami Shayya, an architecture student and a member of the Secular Club at the Lebanese American University.
“Students who are already enrolled in the university are the most affected as many have a limited budget for their higher education, but were faced with a significant rise in tuition which they cannot afford,” Shayya said. “We asked the university administration to participate in such crucial decisions and want to know on what basis or criteria the switch in the exchange rate was decided.”