Hit by the recent depreciation of the Egyptian pound against the U.S. dollar, Egyptian families are facing difficult choices regarding paying the tuition fees of children studying at private institutions, which were already more expensive.
Since March, Egypt’s national currency has lost more than 30 percent of its value, according to the Central Bank of Egypt, which recently agreed to adopt a flexible exchange rate system that will allow supply and demand to determine the pound’s value against other currencies.
For students who pay tuition in dollars, that means studies are suddenly even more expensive.
Karim El-Khoudary, a master’s degree student at the American University in Cairo, decided to postpone his studies rather than resort to a loan to pay tuition.
El-Khoudary explained that his studies cost $6,000 annually. At exchange rates in effect late last year, the cost to him “was about 94,000 Egyptian pounds,” he said. “After the price of the dollar jumped to about 24 Egyptian pounds, the fees became around 144,000 pounds.”
One master’s degree student at the American University of Cairo said tuition cost him about 94,000 Egyptian pounds last year. “After the price of the dollar jumped to about 24 Egyptian pounds, the fees became around 144,000 pounds.”
Similarly, Tarek Mohammed, a manager in a private company, fears he will have to transfer his daughter from her current university to less expensive one.
“The private university where my daughter studies physical therapy decided to raise tuition fees by 30 percent, starting next year,” he told Al-Fanar Media. “That is a direct result of the devaluation of the currency.”
That means the annual tuition fee will jump from 90,000 Egyptian pounds to around 120,000 pounds, Mohammed said. He is thinking about transferring his daughter to another university if he can’t keep up with this huge increase, he said.
For Some, the Pain Comes Sooner
Students who are paying their current tuition in instalments may feel the effects of the change even sooner.
Mohammed Abdel Moneim, a medical student at a private university, said that when he chose to pay by instalments early this academic year, he did not foresee that his payments might increase later. “However, this is what happened,” he told Al-Fanar Media. “The university administration informed us of the increase in expenses, since tuition had not been paid in full since the beginning of the year.”
The complexity of the procedures for transferring to another university may limit Moneim’s options. He fears he may have to repeat an academic year if he moves to another university.
Initiatives to Mitigate the Crisis
The change means more expenses for universities, too.
Tarek Salah, dean of the Faculty of Art and Design at the private October University for Modern Sciences and Arts (MSA), said the university was still studying how much it would have to raise tuition, starting from the second semester of the current academic year.
Salah said the increase was necessary because the prices of educational materials, such as paper, equipment and the devices used in practical colleges were going up.
“We may see initiatives between universities and students’ parents to alleviate the severity of the crisis,” he told Al-Fanar Media, suggesting the possibility of increasing the number of tuition fee payments.
“We may see initiatives between universities and students’ parents to alleviate the severity of the crisis,” possibly by increasing the number of tuition fee payments.Tarek Salah, dean of the Faculty of Art and Design at October University for Modern Sciences and Arts
For her part, Omneia Helmy, a professor of economics at Cairo University, believes that the decline of the Egyptian currency will negatively affect the general level of prices and Egyptian citizens’ purchasing power. One of the most important implications of this is the threat it poses to higher education access, she said.
“There are those who pay their tuition fees in Egyptian pounds and those who pay in hard currency (dollars),” she said. “The issue has many dimensions as some students enroll in private universities because they do not obtain the necessary grades in high school to join the colleges they prefer.”
Helmy says that universities will be forced to increase their tuition fees in order to keep pace with the requirements of renewal, maintenance and replacement processes, as well as to meet the educational requirements, whose prices have also increased.
Helmy believes there are other means students and parents can resort to. One is getting education loans at a low interest rate.
Suggesting more comprehensive solutions, she said that students might consider attending one of Egypt’s new technological universities, which may increase their job opportunities, given the demand for graduates with technical skills in the Egyptian labour market in recent years, as well as in Europe. She thinks that focusing on technical education would strengthen the labour market and the industrial field in general.
Helmy concluded that Egypt graduates about 500,000 students from universities annually, many of whom studied disciplines that are not needed by the labour market. Jobs related to technological development and vocational jobs are more plentiful, she said, especially for graduates who have the soft skills that employers want.
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