By Evie Andreou
EDUCATION Minister Costas Kadis will not accept any hike in fees at private schools, he told the Sunday Mail, after one such institution announced its intent to do so and has postponed the start of classes for a week to discuss it further with the ministry.
Kadis has stepped in to resolve a disagreement between the American International School (AIS) and his own ministry regarding the school’s decision to introduce a building levy of €750 a year per student.
After receiving complaints from parents, the education ministry sent a letter to the school in June questioning the increase and mentioning the circular on fee increases sent to all private schools in February.
According to the circular private schools were asked to decrease their tuition fees by 0.82 per cent and told that if they wanted to leave their fees at the same levels or introduce a decrease less than that mentioned in the circular, they had to justify their decision and provide the necessary documentation. Schools were told to submit their fees and other charges for 2014-15 to the ministry for approval by March 15.
Dr Niki Papadopoulou-Papa of the education ministry’s private education department said the school did not inform the ministry of its intentions and that a dialogue had started to resolve the matter.
The school claims that the ministry was informed of its intentions to introduce the building levy and that they verbally agreed during a meeting they had earlier in the year, and that AIC even prepared a feasibility study on the ministry’s request.
But Kadis told the Sunday Mail this week that what had been said at the meeting was that the ministry understood the reasons for wanting to raise the fees but they had not agreed to the move. “Due to the economic crisis we will not accept any [fee] increase in any private school,” the minister said.
The school sent a letter to parents on Monday saying it was postponing the start of the school year by a week, to September 8, in order to sort things out with the ministry. It reassured parents that the postponement would not have a negative impact on the students.
The ministry’s objection to the levy was good news for parents, since several said they were considering transferring their children to another school. But AIS says it’s struggling to stay afloat.
In another letter to parents on Thursday it said that the ministry’s refusal to allow any fee increase over the last four years had placed it in an adverse financial position and that it would face difficulties maintaining its high standards, employing top teachers and moving to a more suitable building that would allow the school to expand.
“If any similar school were to start in Cyprus, we feel certain it would need to charge much higher fees,” parents were told in the letter. The letter added that ESOL Education, the organisation that operates AIS, has supported the school by waiving its management fees and has been operating the school as a non-profit institution.
AIS is to have a meeting with the ministry tomorrow to discuss the fees for the 2015-16 school year.