The recent decision by the LUMS administration to hike the biannual fee by 41 percent has met with shock and disappointment
Amidst the Covid-19 crisis, academic institutions around the globe are seen modifying their policies to best fit the need of the hour. While the Punjab government has urged schools, colleges and universities to reduce their fees by at least 20 percent in view of the unprecedented economic downturns, the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) has recently announced a 41 percent hike in their biannual fee
The decision has met with much shock and disappointment.
Since a sit-in or an actual protest demonstration could not be held without flouting the guidelines on social distancing, some of the students have found an alternative in twitter. The hashtag LUMSfeehike saw 7,000 tweets last week.
The twitterverse have spoken out against the “insensitivity” displayed by the varsity administration during a global pandemic and in times of predicted recession and the LUMS’s official page on Facebook has been flooded with posts demanding a retraction of the decision.
The varsity administration says the fee hike is in line with its policy and determined in the light of factors like inflation and currency devaluation.
Under the new policy the fee shall be based on a per-credit-hour calculation, instead of the previous flat fee amount each semester with a per-unit charge. This, the administration says, will not only take extra academic burden off the students’ shoulders, by encouraging them to take fewer courses, but will also eventually reduce the annual fee amounts for those who follow a strict regimen of 12 credit hours per semester.
Talking to TNS, Huma Tahir (name changed on her request), an economics student says that the “statements by the administration are mere justifications.”
From the viewpoint of the students and aspirants, a lot has changed suddenly — from the basic amount that has to be paid to the liberty of enrolling in a variety of courses. Earlier, the students had paid a blanket amount for a bracket of credit hours. They could choose the number of courses they wanted per semester without worrying about additional expenses. This allowed them to explore courses outside of their major subjects and take up free electives.
The new policy includes a major alteration: the fee shall be based on a per-credit-hour calculation, instead of the previous flat fee amount each semester with a per-unit charge. This, the LUMS administration claims, will not only take extra academic burden off the students’ shoulders, by encouraging them to take fewer courses, but will also eventually reduce the annual fee amounts for those who follow a strict regimen of 12 credit hours per semester.
With a first-come-first-serve course enrollment system in place, many students at LUMS are unable to enroll in their desired courses at first attempt. Students often have to take an overload of courses in their last semesters to make up for this. Under the new policy each extra credit hour in any semester would cost.
The Office of Registrar at LUMS states, “As a not-for-profit institution that takes pride in the diversity of our student body, LUMS disburses approximately Rs 1 billion in financial aid every year. One out of 3 students at LUMS receives significant financial aid ranging from 30 to 135 percent of student tuition.”
It further says that the “blanket 41 percent increase grossly misstates the fees that all students pay.”
TNS approached Ali Usman Qasmi, an associate professor of history at LUMS’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences for his comments. He refused the request “especially when deliberations are going on.” He said the “faculty is planning to issue a collective statement on the issue that will be publicly available.”
Though LUMS, as a private academic institution, has never not been considered elitist, the new policy could result in greater disparity on campus. While well-off students will continue to enroll in additional courses, those who cannot afford to pay for extra credit hours will have a limited choice of courses to fulfill their degree requirements.
The impact of the new policy is not just a 41 percent hike in the fee, it also introduces a way of academic enrollment for which many students are not prepared. This comes as a shock, especially since the university takes pride in being ‘not for profit’. Universities around the world have opted to limit spending, and to cut staff in order to relax financial burdens on their students during the Covid-19 crisis. Closer to home, Habib University in Karachi has delayed payment of dues to make it easier for students who are coping with the added financial constraints when economic resources for most have been clumped. The same was expected from a leading liberal arts college like LUMS.
In response to the outcry, the university has agreed to waive the extra credit hour fee for the graduating batch. Others are still pressing for a retraction of the policy. The LUMS administration insists that the policy will eventually prove beneficial for students.