No Actual Tuition Hike Freeze; Students Find Even SUCs Prohibitive


More than one month after Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced a moratorium on tuition and other fee increases, students in four of Metro Manila’s state universities and colleges (SUCs) have not received any refund yet from tuition and other fee hikes. The rising cost of public tertiary education has aggravated the plight of many Filipino families grappling with the economic crisis.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
BULATLAT
Volume VIII, No. 22, July 6-12, 2008

On May 26, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo directed the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to put off any increase in tuition and other fees for state universities and colleges for the school year 2008-2009.

In her speech, Arroyo said, “The last thing that our parents need at this point to keep their children striving for college diplomas is another round of adjustment in tuition fees and other school expenses.”

On the same day, CHED Chair Romulo Neri issued a memorandum to the presidents of all SUCs (state universities and colleges) urging the governing boards to put off or defer planned increases in tuition and other fees. Neri added that SUCs that have already closed enrollment for the first semester may opt to either refund the students concerned or credit the amount to the tuition and other fees for the succeeding semester.

After more than a month though, Bulatlat visited four of the biggest SUCs in Metro Manila and found out that none has complied with the order yet.

Fake, useless

Students from SUCs hit Arroyo’s announcement as a mere lip service.

The University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman and the Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (EARIST) implemented tuition and other fee increases last school year.UP hiked its tuition last year by 300 percent, or from P300 ($6.50 at last year’s average exchange rate of $1:P46.15) to P1,000 ($21.67) per unit . EARIST raised its tuition from P15 ($0.32) per unit to P100 ($2.17) per unit. New fees such as the energy fee and development fee were also collected.

Fee increases imposed last year are, technically, not covered by the moratorium ordered by Arroyo.

Mikko Samson, a second year journalism student of UP Diliman, called the President’s announcement “fake.”

Diana Enera of EARIST said of the order, “Nakakainis! Walang silbi” (It’s irritating and useless.) Antonio Perdigon Jr., another EARIST student, added, “Pampalubag-loob.” (It is meant to appease us.)

Sophia Prado, student regent of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), said the order “intends to pacify the anger of the country’s scholars.”

Prado said that the PUP administration deferred the proposed tuition increase, not in compliance with Arroyo’s order but because of student protests.

In February, more than 5,000 PUP students walked out of their classes and stormed the CHED’s main office in Pasig City when they heard about the proposal to increase their tuition from P12 ($0.30 at last February’s average exchange rate of $1:P40.67) per unit to P100 ($2.46) per unit, Prado related.

The PUP student regent, however, slammed the imposition of P100-tuition per unit for students enrolled at the PUP’s Open University and graduate school.

This semester, too, the PUP administration collected P250 ($5.65 at last June’s average exchange rate of $1:P44.28) from every student as development and modernization fee. Prado said that despite her manifestation of protest at the Board of Regents (BoR) meetings, the administration pursued its plan of imposing additional fees.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Normal University (PNU) hiked its tuition from P35 ($0.77) per unit to P100 ($2.20) per unit. Miscellaneous fees amounted to almost P1,000 ($22.00).

In an interview with Bulatlat, PNU President Atty. Lutgardo Barbo disclosed that they received the CHED memorandum regarding the freeze in tuition and other fees only after the enrollment.

Dr. Susan Declaro, PNU Vice President for Administration and Finance, said they have not received specific guidelines from CHED on how to implement Arroyo’s order.

Barbo said they are still studying whether to refund the tuition increase or to credit it to the next semester.

Alvin Peters, national president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), said that based on their monitoring, SCUs actually imposed tuition and other fee hikes. “Walang kaseryosohan ang gobyerno. In-announce kung kailan marami ang nakapag-enrol na. Hindi malinaw kung paano mababawi” (The government is not serious about it. It was announced after many students have enrolled already. It is not clear how the students will get their payments back.)

Peters also questioned the timing of the announcement. He said, “Nakapakete sa mga dole-outs, bahagi ng populist rhetoric na may ginagawa kunwari sa lumalalang krisis sa ekonomiya”  (It is packaged as one of the dole-outs, a part of populist rhetoric to show that something is done to address the economic crisis.)

Prohibitive

The rising cost of education coupled with the increasing prices of basic commodities has made education prohibitive for many students in SUCs.

Samson applied for Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP). After one month of processing the required papers, she has been moved to a lower bracket. From Bracket D with P600 ($13.20) per unit, she has been qualified for Bracket E, equivalent to P300 per unit of tuition. Still, she paid more than P7,000 ($158.08) this semester.

Samson lamented that UP’s bracketing system is erroneous. No one in her family is employed. They rely only on pension from the Social Security System (SSS). Her father died a few years ago.

She said, “Akala ng mama ko, makakatipid kami. Parang private na rin daw pala (ang UP)” (My mother thought we would spend little. She said later that UP seems like a private school.)

To sustain her schooling, her mother uses the SSS card as collateral for incurred loans. There were times, she said, when they had to do with P900 ($19.80) per month. She has two siblings.

Samson related they she knew students who passed the UP College Admission Test (UPCAT) but opted to enroll in other schools that offer scholarships or have lower tuition. She noticed, too, that most of her classmates came from private secondary schools.

EARIST’s Enera’s plight is almost similar. Her father used to be an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) but is now jobless. Her mother works as a laundry woman.

She took the entrance test at EARIST thinking that tuition is affordable. “Nagulat kami na mataas ang tuition” (We were shocked to know that tuition is expensive.)

Enera said that two of her siblings were supposed to enter college, too. “Huminto sila para pagbigyan ako. Hindi na kayang pag-aralin” (They stopped schooling to give way to me. Our parents cannot send all of us to school.)

Before the enrollment, she thought she herself would have to quit school. “Nangungutang na lang ng pantustos sa pag-aaral.” (We just borrow money to sustain my schooling.)

Meanwhile, Perdigon, a third year business student at EARIST who was not hit by the tuition increase, complained of the energy fee, the laboratory fee and other new fees imposed on upper class students. His family also finds it hard to keep him in school.

His father is the only breadwinner, working as a cook for a carinderia (eatery). Like Enera, one of his siblings who should also be in college stopped schooling.

PUP freshmen Roy Torongoy and Rodel Sumooc are no different. Torongoy’s father is a driver; Sumooc said his mother’s eatery is their only source of the family’s income.

Although PUP’s tuition is pegged at P12 ($0.27) per unit, both students paid P958 ($21.64) upon enrolment. Torongoy said, “Compared to other schools, mas mura nga rito pero bulok-bulok naman (ang) facilities” (Compared to other schools, it’s cheaper here but the facilities are dilapidated.)

PNU Student Arsadon Vera said that they did not expect that tuition and other fees have gone up to P3,450 ($77.91). Her sister Katherine, a PNU graduate, related she was compelled to borrow money from a friend during enrolment.

When Katherine entered PNU in 2004, tuition was pegged at P35 ($0.62) per unit. Although she heard about the impending hike, she was nonetheless surprised by the rate of increase.

State subsidy

Students from SUCs deemed that the government must increase state subsidy to education.

Samson said that UP education must not be commercialized. She called on the government to increase state subsidy so that poor but deserving students may enter UP. She also criticized the excessive spending for the UP centennial celebrations.

Enera and Perdigon said the EARIST administration used as justification the decreasing budget for tuition and other fee increases.

Even PNU President Barbo, also president of the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PAASUC) in the National Capital Region, said that government must pour in money to education. He deplored that the PNU, the oldest university and the country’s national university for teacher education, was not able to get increases in budgetary allocations in the past years. “We have always been lobbying for higher budget but nothing happened,” he said.

He said that most SUCs in the Philippines are not at par with the best universities in the world due to poor facilities. Barbo asserted that government earnings from expanded value-added tax (VAT) must be spent for the basic needs of state educational institutions. He also said that debt servicing eats up the biggest chunk from the national budget. “Let them [lending institutions] understand that we are already dying. How can we pay them?” he said.

Asked if he agrees on Arroyo’s order, Barbo said, “I think it’s a stop-gap solution, a band-aid measure.” He said that SUCs may defer increases this year but may always opt to implement hikes in the following years due to budgetary constraints.

Review policies

Peters said that from the start, they have been critical of Arroyo’s declaration of moratorium. “Government has no political will to regulate tuition… Pagpapapogi lang ni GMA sa panahon ng krisis”  (GMA only wants to earn good points amid the crisis.)

He added that education in the Philippines is essentially deregulated. Peters explained that the Higher Education Modernization Act (HEMA) authorizes governing boards of SUCs to fix tuition and other fees.

Peters also slammed Arroyo and the CHED for not controlling the tuition and other fee hikes of private higher educational institutions (PHEIs). He said that PHEIs have soaring tuition and other fees. He pointed out that the Education Act of 1982 has given school owners the power to increase fees.

The NUSP called on legislators to review policies on education. “These laws are the very reasons why the government cannot control the rising cost of tertiary education,” Peters said.

The Long Term Higher Education Development Plan (LTHEDP) reveals the government’s thrust on education, Peters said. “Malinaw na talagang nasa balangkas ng pagbabawas ng SUCs, pagbibigay ng fiscal economy na nagbubunga ng pagtaas ng matrikula at iba pang bayarin. Sa esensya, tinatalikuran ng gobyerno ang obligasyon sa edukasyon” (It is clear that the government is in the framework of reducing the number of SUCs, provide fiscal autonomy resulting to tuition and other fee increases. In essence, the government is abandoning its obligations to provide education to the Filipino youth.)

PNU President Barbo said, “The quality of education in any country is directly proportional to the vision of its policy makers.” He also called on the government to provide higher budget for education.

Peters also asserted that the Arroyo government should undertake substantial economic reforms. “Apektado talaga ang kabataan sa pagtaas ng presyo ng mga bilihin, gasolina at pamasahe” (We are also affected of the increasing prices of commodities, oil and transportation), he said.

Prado said that PUP students are among those hardest-hit by the economic crisis. She said their parents come from the basic sectors of the society. “This is why we support the demand of workers for wage increase and the call of farmers for genuine land reform,” she said. Bulatlat

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