For the average citizen in Armenia, the cost of a year’s university-level education may be too high, causing prospective students to reconsider their educational plans. Recognizing that reality, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is pioneering a financial aid program that is, according to AUA President Bruce Boghosian, unique to Armenia.
“No Armenian student should ever be denied an AUA education because of inability to pay tuition,” Boghosian told the Armenian Weekly, adding that admission decisions are made first, followed by a review of financial aid applications.
“When admission and financial aid applications arrive at AUA, we physically separate them and we first admit students based on academic qualification. Only after we decide which students are to be admitted do we look at the financial aid applications to see how much tuition assistance they will require from us. This is called a ‘need blind’ admissions policy, and very few institutions of higher education can claim to follow such a policy, even in the United States,” he explained.
Over 50 percent of AUA students receive some form of financial aid, AUA Vice President of Finance Gevorg Goyunyan told the Weekly. “We realize that there are still lots of potential students who do not apply to AUA simply because they do not have sufficient information about the financial aid program we have in place,” he said.
In fact, AUA will also introduce a limited number of merit-based tuition assistance to foreign students.
“At AUA, we believe that universities ought to be international centers of learning, in which students from many different countries are able to study alongside one another and learn from one another,” said Boghosian. “This is particularly important in a country as ethnically homogeneous as Armenia, and we expect that it will benefit the Armenian students as well as the foreign students.”
Aside from familiarizing foreign students with Armenian culture, Boghosian said, the diverse setting will help all students better prepare to work in an international setting, while helping Armenia create a “mercantile economy in which today’s university graduates conduct trade and commerce with their counterparts in all of the world’s capitals.”
Tuition for international students is 3.3 million AMD per year, just under $8,500. In comparison, citizens of Armenia, Nagorno-Karabagh, and legal residents who hold a 10-year visa pay 960,000 AMD, or just under $2,500. That amount is heavily subsidized by AUA donors and partners. The university also offers various payment options for students.
While AUA grants merit-based scholarships to students with exceptional academic records, need-based scholarships are given to students who are in need of financial assistance to pursue their education. For these students, 25-90 percent of their tuition costs are waived. Financial aid applications are reviewed by a committee that, in addition to weighing the necessary documents, visits students’ homes to assess their level of need. “In aggregate, we give about 26 percent of tuition revenue back in need-based tuition assistance,” said Goyunyan.
The university also has a loan program for students who are citizens of Armenia and in good academic standing. Loan amounts go as high as 300,000 AMD (roughly $770), with no interest accrued while the student remains enrolled, and quarterly repayments at 15,000 AMD ($38). Once a student graduates, repayment of the full amount is due within two years.
“We are certain that graduates of this university are well-positioned to find jobs that guarantee sufficient income to be able to pay back,” said Goyunyan.