Brera’s foreign students caught in tax trap

Prestigious Milan academy ups fees.

Students from non-EU countries registering for the next academic year at Milan’s prestigious Brera fine arts academy  a protesting over a more than threefold hike in their fees – due perhaps only to a bureaucratic oversight.

New rules in the Italian annual Budget law require students to present an ISEE certificate (the official calculation of a household’s economic situation) in order to benefit from state-aided reduced fees. A seemingly reasonable rule to avoid tax-dodging – except that the ISEE system is virtually unknown outside Italy.

For the around 1,500 of the academy’s 4,500 student body coming from Albania, Colombia, China, Iran, Byelorussia, Macedonia, South Korea, Ukraine, Russia, Serbia and Switzerland, the rule has brought their plans to a sudden halt.

While some foreign students are from wealthy backgrounds, explains a letter from 300 protesters, many come from poor families, are orphans or children from broken homes.

These applicants say they have invested in “enormous” expense and effort to have the opportunity to study at Brera. After paying for travel, accommodation, Italian language lessons and legalization of their foreign education certificates, they find they will now be included in the wealthiest classification for want of an ISEE report. Their registration fee would thus be set at €4,000 instead of the state-aided €1,200, and the same hike would apply to the fee for their final exams. And many would be forced to abandon their studies.

The students signing the letter of protest say the new rules contravene the constitutional right to education for all, including the less wealthy. If the situation is not resolved, they intend to take their plea to the European Court of Human Rights.

Academy president Livia Pomodoro has asked her staff to report on how the rules might be amended, and has promised to meet the students.