AUC’S Financial Situation: Exclusive Interview with Fouad Sayess

Independent Staff

The committee is working on matching revenues with expenses - ALAIN EL HAJJ

The financial ad-hoc committee is one of seven committees that were formed by the administration in response to the strike led by students and workers last September. Concerned with solving the financial problems facing the university, the committee members have been meeting weekly throughout the past few months discussing various plans pertinent to solving the current budget deficit. Initially, the committee was to present its report of solutions to the university community on Nov. 15 as previously stated during the strike. However due to further negotiations, the committee is to present its much anticipated report on the Dec. 15. Through this exclusive interview to The Independent, Fouad Sayess, the Vice President of Financial Affairs, outlines the progress of the committee’s work.

Independent: Regarding the tuition caps proposed during the strike for returning students, what has the committee proposed? And will the report be made public to the AUC community?

Fouad Sayess: The committee is expecting to release its report regarding all the matters raised during the strike one of which is the tuition caps. We will not be able to disclose information on the tuition caps at the time being because there are still discussions being made at the time being amongst the committee members. As for the publicity of the report as far as I am concerned, it can be public. Of course, that is not my decision alone.

Independent: How is the committee dealing with the current budget deficit?

F.S.: One of the presentations made at the board meetings proposed looking at a three-year financial plan, which will help the university balance out its expenses by the year 2015. The current deficit stands at $8 million, which frankly might increase because of the closing of the Tahrir campus. This three-year plan is proposed to help us break even.

Independent: What are some of the proposed steps that the university has to take in order to break even?

F.S.: We clearly need to reduce our expenses and one of the measures that we have taken and continue to take is to freeze the number of employees at the current level. Also, the faculty positions were also fixed and we will not exceed the current number of newly enrolled students into the next coming years. Due to the fact that student tuition only covers around 60% (of the university’s expenses), we have more expenses than covered by student tuition because more students means more services. We also decided to increase supplies and services in percentages lower than the current Egyptian inflation rate, which is 12%. This means we plan not to pay for services for more than a 3% increase.

Independent: Will the proposed plan add more increases to students’ tuition fees?

F.S.: This has not yet been decided on. The ultimate decision made about anything in the budget is made by the Board of Trustees. We might propose an increase for example but they might make another decision. The way the budget process works is for the various departments to work on their budgets. Responsible (department) heads will send it to the Provost and that will take place during December. The budget will be reviewed in January, February, and March once agreed by the (senior administration) cabinet. The finance committee finally reviews the budget proposal and it is sent to the Board of Trustees and a decision comes out on May.

Independent: What is the maximum percentage of increasing the tuition fees?

F.S.: It is not about a maximum being placed; it is a matching of revenues with the expenses. That is what breaking even means, and what we are trying to achieve that by 2015. We can increase revenues by any percentage and not the expenses and that will make us satisfied. We are currently working with a 180 million EGP operating budget and we can go up to 200 million. As long as the revenues are 200, we are fine.

Independent: The committees set up included student representatives. How have these students’ involvement contributed to the committee decisions?

F.S.: There were changes in the first two to three weeks. There were inconsistencies at first, but the (student) three representatives that we have now are diligent students and committed, and I really commend them for their work. They visited the controller’s office and reviewed budget information. They were definitely engaged in the committee and its decisions.