By Shakeh Avoyan
About two hundred students of state-run Armenian universities and colleges rallied on Tuesday outside the government offices in Yerevan to demand a 20 percent reduction in tuition fees.
“The existing tuition fees are too high and do not reflect the socioeconomic situation in the country,” said one of the organizers of the protest, Menua Harutiunian.
The chief of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s staff, Andranik Hakobian, received Harutiunian and four other student leaders to discuss their demands. But no agreement was announced after the meeting.
Hakobian claimed that the students, many of whom are affiliated with various political parties, are being manipulated by the latter. “Some people are using your energy for their political aims,” he told the protesters.
But the organizers denied any political motives behind the demonstration. “This is a purely student action that must not be politicized,” said Artak Mkrtchian, who represents the youth organization of the opposition Hanrapetutyun party.
The student leaders accused the authorities of preventing more students from taking part in the rally. They claimed that university rectors have received corresponding orders from the government.
The majority of Armenian students enrolled in the state universities have to pay an annual tuition fee averaging $600 to $700. Studying at the most prestigious university programs costs up to $1500 a year.