Community Briefing Session Discusses Emergency Tuition Grant Program

In a briefing session held for parents and students yesterday to discuss the new Emergency Tuition Grant Program, Sohair Saad, executive director of the Office of Financial Affairs and Scholarships, said that students who wish to apply for the program must be full-time students with a course load of at least 12 credits and a GPA of 2.0 or above, and must demonstrate financial need. Those who should not apply are the approximately 1,700 AUC families who are already enrolled in financial assistance programs in Fall 2016 and who have already applied and are eligible for financial aid for Spring 2017, as they will be automatically considered for the grant program unless any of them do not want that. Application to the Emergency Tuition Grant Program is voluntary, and no one is obliged to apply, Saad noted.

“For those who do apply, it is important to accurately complete and submit the application, upload the required documents and ensure that there is no mismatch between the documents and application figures,” emphasized Saad, adding that of those who applied for financial aid in Fall 2016 and submitted complete applications, 93.4 percent of enrolled (current) students and 58.2 percent of incoming (new) students were found to be eligible and currently receive financial aid. The Emergency Tuition Grant Program, she noted, is a separate – and additional – budget from the financial aid many students are currently receiving. 

The session came after President Francis J. Ricciardone announced on Tuesday that the University was taking emergency measures necessary to ensure that no currently enrolled student must withdraw from AUC due to his or her family’s inability to pay tuition. Earlier in the month, the University had granted an emergency budget re-allocation of about $1 million to enable all currently enrolled students to complete the 2016 term. For the rest of this academic year, AUC initiated the Emergency Tuition Grant Program, re-allocating up to $5 million from the 2016 - 2017 budget to fully cover the costs anticipated for all families requiring grants to meet the additional Egyptian pounds needed for the balance of this year’s tuition.

President Ricciardone explained in a message to the community that the “re-allocation in USD will protect those families, regardless of fluctuations in value of the EGP vs. USD.  Accordingly, we have renewed and significantly revised the former 2016 - 2017 Financial Aid Program to accommodate all of our students’ families who wish to benefit from our new Emergency Tuition Grant Program through this current academic year.”

With the launch of the new Emergency Tuition Grant Program, the University has reopened the application process for tuition grants for the Spring 2017 semester, which had closed on November 10, to extend from December 1 to 15, 2016. Throughout the month of December, financial aid specialists will conduct interviews, review files and verify submitted documents, and on December 30, they will conduct a needs assessment and analysis. On January 10, the financial aid director will make recommendations on financial aid awards, and two days later, Saad will review those recommendations before submitting them to a financial aid committee that will approve or amend the awards mid-January. By January 19, the financial aid team will disburse the financial aid awards –– in dollars –– to the students’ accounts.

“Our aim is to speed up the process so parents and students are notified before next semester’s fees are due, and the University is providing us with additional resources to accommodate all applications speedily and smoothly,” said Saad. “Our priority is always to accommodate currently enrolled students, and as President Ricciardone has repeatedly emphasized, to ensure that no currently enrolled student must withdraw from AUC due to his or her family’s inability to meet the additional amount of tuition due.”

In addition to Saad’s presentation, Yasmine Omar, financial aid officer, gave a live demo of the Emergency Tuition Grant Program application form and how to complete it, step-by-step. Omar emphasized that a need-based financial assistance program is a fair solution because it accommodates those most in need.

After the presentation and live demo ended, many of the parents attending the session expressed their dissatisfaction and refusal of the Emergency Tuition Grant Program, saying that it is a temporary solution for a number of students and not a permanent, long-term plan that would accommodate all students. Parents also demanded that tuition be expressed fully in Egyptian pounds and that the annual increase in tuition for currently enrolled students be capped at 5 to 7 percent until they graduate. Other parents noted that they have voted on two solutions with the Parents Association board and want to know where things stand with those two proposals.  

A Student Union representative said that the Student Union proposed to the administration that the $5 million grant be divided equally among all students, not just those in need, which he said would provide a solution for all currently enrolled students for the Spring 2017 semester. He noted that the administration responded that American universities operate on a need-based financial aid system.