Iranian students struggling to pay tuition fees

IRANIAN students in Australia are struggling to pay their fees as international sanctions cause financial turmoil back home. Luke Henriques-Gomes reports.

With the Iranian rial in free-fall, many students are struggling to pay their fees. Photo: Scarta

A peak international student body says Australia’s universities must show compassion to Iranian students struggling with ongoing financial turmoil in their homeland.

The Council for International Students Australia (CISA) is urging universities to let Iranian students alter or suspend their studies as many cope with rising financial pressures caused by international sanctions on their homeland.

The measures are in protest of Iran’s nuclear power program and have left the country’s banks locked out of global markets.

CISA president Arfa Noor said many of Australia’s 3000 students were facing financial and logistical difficulties caused by the dropping Iranian currency, the rial, and a reliance on exchange companies to move money.

“A student who would have paid 8000 rials for their tuition fees now has to pay 22,000 rials,” Ms Noor said.

A report by CISA found 68 per cent of students were having trouble transferring funds while almost a quarter said they were unable to pay their fees.

A number of students surveyed were also asking family and friends overseas for financial assistance.

Ms Noor said some had even travelled to Russia to access their finances.

“It’s just a very desperate situation,” she said.

The Federal Government recently indicated that universities can and should allow Iranian students to suspend or alter their studies under compassionate grounds, releasing information outlining options for those struggling with financial pressures.

In a meeting with CISA, the Government said students facing special circumstances were eligible to stay in Australia under their student visas to work full-time to support themselves.

They also had the option to study part-time with work restrictions of 40 hours a fortnight.

But Ms Noor said this was only offered on a case-by-case basis and despite the Government’s support, universities are not compelled to grant all students this option.

“The issue has been that a lot of universities are saying this does not qualify,” Ms Noor said.

“No one can force universities to make this decision.”

She said another option for universities was to charge the affected students the cost rate of tuition such as with domestic students.

“This way even though they’re not making a profit, at least they’re also not making a loss,” she said.

CISA believes unless the political climate in Iran changes, things will continue to get worse for students.

It plans to work with the Federal Government in building a framework to help students who face similar problems in the future.

“This has happened with Libyan students only a few months ago, it’s happening with Iranian students, and we now know Syrian students are facing a similar situation,” she said

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