It shouldn’t be difficult for a fair observer to see the intent of our recently announced fee restructuring decision and the many clarifications that followed, as well as the mitigating measures linked to it. Nor would it be difficult for such a reviewer
  President’s Forum: Notes from Dr. Mawad  
Michel E. Mawad, M.D.

Why Fee Restructuring?

It shouldn’t be difficult for a fair observer to see the intent of our recently announced fee restructuring decision and the many clarifications that followed, as well as the mitigating measures linked to it. Nor would it be difficult for such a reviewer to see that the entire approach followed was developed for two main purposes. The first is ensuring sustainability of high standards essential to quality higher education and world-class faculty talent at LAU. The second is making such an education affordable for students and families through the terrible crisis afflicting Lebanon. 

Two Main Goals

The first goal is predicated on the principle that we cannot continue with this current chaos where we get paid in local currency while almost all of our payments are in fresh dollars. This duality is causing us a financial hemorrhage to the tune of $73 million over the past two years. This amount had to be withdrawn from our limited and overstretched endowment. We simply can no longer afford to have expenditures in one currency and revenues in another.

The second goal, affordability for students, is at the heart of our fee restructuring plan. Well over $100 million has been earmarked for financial aid which will now cover, to varying degrees, practically our entire student body. 

Now at LAU

Over 3,000 financial aid applications for AY 2022-2023 have already been received. A beefed-up team of officers is busy processing them as fast as humanly possible. For transparency purposes, a financial aid dashboard providing regularly updated information will be available to our students very soon. Our goal is to make sure that, on average, an LAU student ends up with a fee burden of no more than 37 percent of the nominal amount. This is, of course, an average that will vary between one student and another based on need. Some will receive financial aid upward of 80 percent while others will receive less. The deciding factor is the proven ability-to-pay of each of our students. Students who have reason to contest the amount allocated to them may appeal the decision. Overall, it is important to point out that the university will be allocating to financial aid around two thirds of the value of its entire fee revenue. In other words, our new fee structure, imposed by worsening conditions in the country, provides LAU students with a safety net second to none at any major private university in Lebanon. The little we will be left with is hardly enough to cover our operating expenses, not to mention our much-needed capital projects that are currently on hold starting with the onset of the crisis. Our students can also look forward to the availability of other student-friendly instruments such as grant-based scholarships, and LAU-sponsored low-interest soft loans with a comfortable grace period and long pay-back horizon.

Students Are Our Prime Beneficiaries

The new tuition structure that will go into effect in fall 2022 will allow LAU to accomplish the following: 

a- Retain much-needed faculty and staff talent. More realistically, decelerate the talent attrition rate after more than 40 resignations we were hit with for reasons exclusively related to economic conditions in the country. Talent retention means that LAU students will continue to be taught by outstanding faculty members whom the institution may have a better chance of retaining by paying part of their salaries in fresh dollars. Ability to make such payments is the key for hanging on to highly qualified faculty, staff and physicians. 

b- However limited, a revenue stream in fresh cash would allow LAU to continue to invest in developing its Center for Innovative Learning needed for advanced digital delivery, allocate funds for faculty research, upgrade our IT facilities, maintain international academic partnerships, and retain our status near the top of the higher education pack. 

c- That every single one of the steps listed under (a) and (b) above is critical to quality higher education is a self-evident truism. High standards are what we owe our students for the head start in life they deserve.

d- By being enrolled at a university that attracts top faculty and staff, provides model facilities on two campuses, and upholds the highest academic and professional standards, students will be practically future-proofing themselves. Nothing can be more important in our complex world which is changing at a dazzling speed. To graduate from a highly branded university with multiple hard-earned accreditations from US accrediting bodies, and globally visible research output, is a ticket to a successful professional life and a flourishing career – critical ingredients for a good quality of life. 

All the ideas underscored in this short message were discussed openly in a series of meetings with our students. Meetings included student council members, town halls, student groups, and a broad range of messages sent by the President, Vice President for Student Enrollment, Deans of Students, and our Strategic Communications Unit. As a result, we feel we are on the same page with the greatest majority of our students. We also communicated to the same effect with alumni, donors, and over social media. Press interviews were given as well. 

To our students, to their families, to our alumni, donors, and community at large, we bring forth a message of responsibility, hope, determination to continue to be the best, and solidarity as one family against all odds. Above all, we bring forth a message of compassion with the moms and dads who entrusted us with thousands of young lives in their formative years. We take this stewardship responsibility very seriously and hold it higher than any other priority we have. 

LAU students and their families should feel certain that their university will always be there for them as both sides are intertwined in the joint pursuit of excellence for a brighter future. 

Together we will prevail.


Michel E. Mawad, M.D.
Lebanese American University