SOCIETY

Erasmus student exchange program under threat in Greece due to economic pressure

erasmus-student-exchange-program-under-threat-in-greece-due-to-economic-pressure

Greek participation in the Erasmus program (European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students) is in jeopardy. Due to the shuttering of the banks and the tremendous economic difficulties that Greece is experiencing, concern is growing in regard to whether Greek students living elsewhere in Europe will be able to pay their way.

Apparently, landlords are demanding Greek students’ rent payments up front. Every year, approximately 3,000 Greeks participate in the Erasmus student exchange program.

Worries have also been expressed regarding Greek students who are scheduled to arrive at European universities in August. Furthermore, the problem is expected to affect students coming to Greek universities for the fall semester of the 2015-16 academic year too.

Normally, Greek Erasmus scholars, who are studying or interning at European institutions, will have already sent money from Greece to bank accounts in the places where they are attending university. However, those youngsters, who have already agreed on a monthly deposit for their rent, are now being confronted by the owners of their residences who are threatening to evict the students unless they pay for a full four months in advance.

Additionally, back home, parents’ hands are tied. Due to the bank closures and the problematic use of Greek credit cards, families are unable to provide their children with the necessary funds. Consequently, Greek students are desperately contacting the universities, which are in no position to be of any assistance.

On the other hand, Greek students who are scheduled to depart for Scandinavian universities in August are asking the responsible departments at Greek universities about the validity of their scholarships. The latter are simply unable to respond. Those students have booked their flights and have already deposited down payments for their rent.

“Their parents are constantly calling us to find out what is going to happen with their children’s participation in the program, but obviously we are not the ones responsible for answering these questions,” Ekaterini Galanaki, head of international relations at the Athens University of Economics and Business and Erasmus representative told Kathimerini.

Meanwhile, students who are expected to arrive in Greece from the other 32 member countries of the Erasmus program have also booked flight tickets and made down payments for their rent. “Worrisome messages coming from foreign students, their parents and their institutions are coming thick and fast. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide any sort of assistance due to the current economic situation,” says Galanaki, who is also an actuary for the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS).

New horizons

The Erasmus program started operating unofficially in 1987, while its official establishment was in 1989. By offering its students new horizons, it is considered the European Union’s most successful program. In 1987, 37 Greek students joined the program, while Greece’s annual participation record was set in 2013, with 3,324 students participating in Erasmus.

If students who interned abroad are taken into consideration, as well as members of the teaching and administration staff, the total sum of Greek participants in the 2013 Erasmus program reaches 4,908 members. The new 2014-20 Erasmus program’s budget is set at 14.7 billion euros, which is 40 percent higher than that for the previous program. It is estimated that over 4 million people will benefit from the program. Will Greek students still be able to?