LUMS Under Fire for Callous Fee Hike

In one highly controversial and shockingly unprecedented move, the LUMS administration has managed to turn the entire student body on its ear. A few days prior, LUMS announced its new fees structure that revealed an astronomical 41% increase in semester charges. This was an action thrust upon an unaware and critically unprepared student body – but most importantly, one that could not have come at a worse time.

As the news spread like wildfire, so did massive panic and distress.

In order to contest this decision, students took to Twitter to fight their campaign under the hashtag #LUMSFeeHike that now has nearly 7,300 tweets by students and assorted supporters.

Moreover, a poll has recently been created among students in order to gauge support for a complete boycott of the summer semester, for which enrollment starts tomorrow. A LUMS student has also written a heartfelt letter of complaint to the administration, published by ProperGaanda. The student describes her parents’ precarious financial situation and the lengths her family is compelled to go to so she can attend LUMS – a university that was already considered expensive by most standards.

In terms of addressing student concerns, administrative bodies have demonstrated a display of acute inadequacy verging on outright dismissiveness.

They claim it is only a step away from the previous “blanket fee” structure that allowed students to pay a uniform amount, within the constraints of a specified credit hours bracket. However, the new policy discards this “blanket fee” allowance: an action which many students are arguing will create a disincentive to take courses outside of their majors due to the exponential cost of doing so.

Moreover, it is no secret that LUMS has a poorly designed, inefficient enrollment system which results in students not getting their courses as they had planned. Out of desperation, many students end up having to opt for twenty credit hours in their junior and senior years to complete their degree on time. The university has made no attempts to subsidize students who have no other option but to enroll in more than 12 credit hours.

Whereas an increase in financial support and aid would have been the empathetic response for such a highly revered institution, students were met with the precise opposite.

This sudden shift towards a credit-based fee structure will also result in increased disparity on campus. Students in better financial circumstances will be able to enroll in sufficient courses to complete their degrees on time while those who cannot afford to do so will suffer greatly and may even have to forego completing their minors along with the option of exploring courses not linked to their degrees.

LUMS’ official statement regarding this issue has dashed any and all hopes the student body harbored that this issue would be cooperatively ironed out. Perhaps most disappointingly, LUMS has declared that this fee hike was planned out prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in light of the difficulties this crisis has posed, there is a pressing need for the administration to consider revising its pre-set policies. Instead of responding empathetically, LUMS has taken an alternative route.

It is only providing unsatisfactory justifications in a situation which requires an open and honest approach, as well as a concrete plan involving negotiations and concessions.

A few hours ago, there has been an effort via email on part of the Provost and Vice Chancellor to bring some clarity. They are insisting the fee increase is not as exponential as reports claim and will be revised once more later on in the summer. They continue to hold fast to the claim that the new fee structure is actually benefiting students as it allows those with less credit hours to be charged a lesser amount, and also distributes the workload evenly throughout the 4 years. A concession has been offered to senior and super-senior students who wish to take 20 or more than 20 credit hours in their final semesters in order to complete their requirements. In such cases, the extra charges for each credit hour after the obligatory 16 will be waived. However, the issue still persists for the other enrolled batches.

It cannot be forgotten that at a time where the world is virtually on the brink of economic and social collapse, LUMS has only managed to do more harm than good.

With economists constantly warning the virus is likely to lead to a global recession, administrative systems around the world are planning to transform their approaches to business and commerce. Employees in all economic sectors are being laid off. People are unsure of how to make next month’s rent. Everyone is facing tough, wrenching crises that have virtually no path of resolution.

LUMS, however, is an island amidst this chaos. In one fell swoop, it has alienated both itself and the student body, while also creating a deep and burgeoning rift between the two.

Sadly, no amount of concessions can reverse the damage done. There is a loss of trust, and alongside it, ramped up suspicion regarding the university’s motives. The continued insistence that the new policy is not as detrimental as students think is not helping to bridge the divide. Even now, online platforms are teeming with talk of boycotts, formation of student unions, and mass student protests. There is no telling how all this anxiety and sense of betrayal will be ultimately channeled. The student body is determined to stand together and see this through to the end – whichever end that may be.

Authored by Manaal Shuja & Marium Mazhar

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