By BENJIE OLIVEROS
A few days ago, my second daughter was telling me how, every semester, they have to find ways and means to help raise the tuition of some members of their organization’s chapter at the University of Sto. Tomas, a university run by the Dominican order. Otherwise, the students would have to stop for one or two semesters to try to earn money for their tuition. This reminded me of a friend of mine, who is working in an NGO, who, when I asked how her children are, told me that her eldest son stopped for a semester because they were not able to raise the funds for his tuition.
Those studying in state universities are likewise having a difficult time. Four years ago, when the University of the Philippines (UP) first increased its tuition to P1,000 per semester, my two daughters who were volunteer registration assistants then told me of students returning their registration forms after seeing how much they had to pay and deciding to just go home to their provinces. If tuition is not much of a problem, the costs of studying are. My nephew who is studying at PUP told us that he finds it diffucult to eat lunch in school because his classmates do not have anything to eat.
The rising cost of education is a concern of every parent. I remember also franctically finding extra income months before we had to pay the tuition for our daughters’ education since they began schooling. We were just lucky that two of our daughters studied in public science high schools and the youngest got an academic scholarship in a private school. In college, the eldest got a scholarship all through medical school, the second studied at UP when the tuition was not yet prohibitive, and the third, who entered UP the year after the tuition was raised to P1,000 per unit, got two scholarships: from a bank and a friend.
But opportunities like these are hard to come by. What about the majority of the youth?
The schoolyear is just about to end and this early, 300 universities and colleges already expressed their intent to raise their tuition. Last year, 324 universities and colleges raised their tuition, according to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). CHED chairwoman Patricia Licuanan said 88 percent of higher education institutions are privately-owned and yet they corner only 60 percent of enrolled students because of the high cost of education. She said if they raise tuition too much, they would lose students to state colleges and universities.
However, with the increasing tuition of state colleges and universities and with pressure to increase their tuition even more because of the decreasing government subsidy, students would have nowhere to go to. in the future. This is the kind of education ‘reform’ the Aquino government is embarking on. It would be implementing a K+12 basic education program but would let higher education institutions increase their tuition until only a few could afford it. The rest would have to contend with completing basic education and try to get jobs as workers.
When the Aquino government declared that it is increasing the number of years of basic education to align our system with that of other countries, it is not only referring to basic education but to the whole education system. Early this year, I was talking with my cousin who is now residing in the US but came home for a short visit. He related that because tuition is so expensive in the US, in order for a student to take up a college degree, he or she must get a student loan for the tuition, support from the parents for the dormitory and books, and get a job for his or her daily expenses. And the student would begin paying the loan six months after graduation. So if that student is not able to get a high paying job right after graduation, how would he or she be able to pay back the loan? So, he said, if a student is not willing to study law, medicine, accounting, business, engineering or other courses that would increase the student’s chances of landing high paying jobs, better not take up college anymore.
Thus, even if what President Aquino said is true – which I doubt very much because the major cause of drop outs has got a lot to do with the family’s income, or lack of it – that universal kindergarten would lower drop out rates, it would do so only on the level of basic education. Because when the ‘reforms’ in education of the Aquino government has been put in place, only a few would be able to afford the tuition of higher education institutions, be it a state univerisity or privately-owned.