A recent development where the prestigious Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) purportedly discontinued financial aid to a number of current and returning students has left the affected students with little choice other than saying goodbye to the “LUMS Dream”, and triggered a rather extreme response from users of social media.
In recent days, social media circles have been rife with news of cancellation of financial aid being offered to many students, with affected students begging friends and family to help them find donors and even talking about contemplating suicide.
And no; the LUMS decision has nothing to do with the cuts in HEC funding in the federal budget.
LUMS is a fine institution as it is, and has produced numerous bright minds that have done the country proud at home and all across the globe. But it is also no secret that it is an institution of the elite, for the elite and one that happens to be to be run by the elite. Look at the names before any school currently in operation at LUMS and you will know who the influencers are.
An average Pakistani can only dream of stepping inside the gates of its sprawling campus as a paying student, which is why most who do make it to LUMS on the basis of some financial aid cannot thank their stars enough for the opportunity. Besides these students do make for impressive feel good stories in annual publications that explain the wonderful world the LUMS National Outreach Program leads students to.
The current fiasco of the aid cut, however, is yet unexplainable. Given the fact that LUMS is looking for, and gets, donations from a number of sources the year round and its own financials point to a handsome profit after tax of almost Rs 820 million as of 2018, denying students already on financial aid further assistance is akin to restricting the oxygen supply of a patient who badly needs it. Besides, LUMS has extensive endowment and scholarship funds specifically kept to offer aid to its students.
Additionally, troublesome because LUMS appears to be increasingly make Profit, and then hoard this revenue, while burden on students keeps on increasing.
LUMS Annual report clearly shows this. Revenue accumulation. 16% increases Aid is matched with same rise in Tuition fees. 2/4 pic.twitter.com/0eiS7jF8f2
— Dawar Hameed Butt (@thelahorewala) July 7, 2019
Was told by a LUMS student that almost 35 pc students were getting some form of financial support. Some will have to drop out. This at the richest university in the country run by some of the richest people around https://t.co/JvVy3ECAGk
— mohammedhanif (@mohammedhanif) July 8, 2019
The outrage LUMS has faced from both present and past students is natural. ‘Luminites’ take great pride in being one and more often than not make everyone around them know the greatness which LUMS as an institution personifies. They give back to the alma mater generously; cajole their company BoDs to direct CSR activities towards LUMS, return to the LUMS often to motivate the younger lot about how they too can reach for the stars from the LUMS platform, set up class funds to give mileage to the LUMS legacy, uphold the bonds of LUMS fraternity at home and abroad and always, almost always, speak fondly and lovingly of LUMS and the privilege they were lucky enough to experience.
To be faced with the other side of the picture is often not easy. And the responses on social media speak for themselves.
LUMS on its part says it takes great pride in telling that “in line with our goal of making world-class education accessible to all, more than PKR 1 billion will be disbursed as financial aid to its student body in the current year. As far as returning students are concerned, in 2019-20 there has been an increase of 15% in students receiving financial assistance. A total number of 1,114 students compared to 967 last year, are being supported with scholarships and financial aid amounting to PKR 718 million, an 18% increase over PKR 609 million disbursed in the last academic year”.
It continues, “At LUMS, over 35% of the students every year are assisted financially in their academic journey. We are indebted to the unwavering support and generous contributions of our donors with whose support we pledge to continue making the dreams of our youth come true!”
The numbers might be true, but things on the ground speak otherwise and the fate of many students hangs in the balance.
But there might be still light at the end of the tunnel for those going through one of the worst crises of their young lives. A social media movement, apparently spearheaded by alumni as well students of LUMS has gathered speed in order to raise funds for affected students. With hashtag #LUMSstudentsoverprofit, the LUMS Alumni Action Forum is looking at crowd funding efforts to get the students left in the lurch by LUMS through their financial trouble.
Breaking from its commitments, according to current students, the LUMS administration has decided to re-calibrate the Financial Aid which had been made available earlier.
— LUMS Alumni Action Forum (@LUMSAlum) July 7, 2019
It’s great to know that the people who are and have been part of LUMS still believe in values that promote common good and welfare of others over self-service and self-promotion.
Inspite of LUMS appearing to have forgotten the lesson.