LEAD program, students face uphill battle after funding cuts
The current economic and political instability, coupled with shortfalls in foreign direct investment since the January 25 Revolution, may be starting to bite at AUC's scholarship programs.
The Leadership for Education and Development (LEAD) Program used to provide full tuition and accommodation fees for 54 students annually for a period of six undergraduate years at AUC. Now, the scholarship has been limited to only five years.
Some program coordinators have told The Caravan that they fear that the scholarship might not be available for students applying in Fall 2012.
LEAD is a joint program that started in 2004 between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Egyptian Ministry of International Cooperation and AUC.
Each year, one male and one female from each of Egypt's 27 governorates, is selected for the scholarship. The fifty-four students are referred to as a cohort.
Janine Elgamal, the Student Life Coordinator of LEAD 5 (cohort chosen in Fall 2008), says the decision to limit the scholarship to five years was out of their hands. "It's not a personal choice, it's the funder's choice," she said adding that this is only applicable to LEAD 8, cohort students admitted in Fall 2011.
Nahed Fouad, Student Life Coordinator of LEAD 8, sees the positives in the funder's cut.
"It's a more efficient use of resources and students are now aware of their challenges," she said adding that this is the best cohort in terms of performance. "Almost all ELI [English Language Institute] students have made successful jumps."
Nevertheless, Asmaa Nabawy, a LEAD 8 student, thinks the decision is unfair because its puts her at a disadvantage to earlier cohort students.
Some students say they face an uphill battle in completing majors that require five years or more - like Engineering - after spending at least one semester in the ELI Program.
Elgamal said that students should prioritize. "Either choose AUC and a non-science major or pursue their science major in any other university." She also said that students were informed of the cuts at the beginning of the 2011-2012 academic year.
Nabawy says her cohort was informed during Freshman orientation, which is right before the beginning of the Fall semester. "I think they should have told us earlier. The problem is that we did not know the way the university operates. If they said your scholarship is just five years, that's enough for Engineering, but we did not know that maybe we will lose a semester or more in English [ELI]."
Evline Meshreky, another LEAD student, believes that this restriction limits student options in trying out courses of different majors before settling down "especially if someone failed a course or dropped it."
In order to assist students facing these new challenges, Fouad said the program is now offering full tuition and accommodation fees for two summer semesters and maybe a winter. Students may also be allowed to overload depending on their GPA.
Fouad said the program is designed to select students who have achieved high academic status in high school and show leadership potential; consequently, there is are higher expectations of them.
However, Meshreky believes that although the LEAD program's goals are inspiring, "there are some inefficiencies in the system that make the program very demanding and some of its activities time consuming with little benefit."
The LEAD program's vision is to qualify Egyptian students to lead in the future by providing them with continuous training to enhance their skill set.