“We spend money not only on tuition, but also on food, for paper work and projects, for our transportation, among others. That is why it would be a great help if the tuition, in a state university like UP, would be affordable.” – Charlotte France, Stand-UP chair
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA ��� Students of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City started their school year with a protest action held at Palma Hall on Thursday, Aug. 7. Wearing red shirts, the students slammed the implementation of the Socialized Tuition Scheme or STS which they called as a “de facto tuition increase.”
“The STS has made UP education more inaccessible to the majority of the Filipino youth by raising the base tuition from P1,000 ($22.72) to P1,500 ($34.08) per unit,” the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (Stand-UP) said in their manifesto.
The group said that UP’s base tuition is far more expensive than the national average tuition rate, which is P573.76 ($13.06) per unit, as well as in the National Capital Region with the average tuition at P1,143 ($25.97). Data from the Office of the Student Regent shows that UP’s tuition is much higher than other state universities and colleges such as the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (P12 or $.57) and Mindanao State University (P100 or $2.27), and even private higher education institutions such as St. Louis University in Baguio (P800 or $18.17) and the University of the Sto. Tomas (P1,300 or $29.53).
“Today, we condemn UP’s expensive tuition that is far beyond the reach of students and the continuing commercialization of education in UP and other universities,” said Charlotte France, chair of Stand-UP and a fourth year Broadcast Communications student.
At an earlier protest on Aug. 6, Wednesday, hundreds of freshmen students from the UP-Manila Kilos Na! also gathered in front of Quezon Hall in UP Diliman to oppose the STS and tuition increase.
Problems with categorization
France said the UP administration is practically bleeding students dry as the P1,500 per unit tuition rate is only a special bracket for “millionaire students” back in the academic year 2006-2007. Now under STS, the students, whether millionaires or not, would have to pay P1,500 per unit.
“If students do not apply for STS, automatically they have to pay P1,500 per unit. But not all students can afford that rate, especially if they are children of an ordinary worker or farmer,” said France in an interview with Bulatlat.com.
The Philippine Collegian, the official student publication of UP Diliman also reported that in 1989, before the socialized tuition was implemented, 58 percent of students could still avail of free tuition. “Now, only three percent of whole UP Diliman population receives free tuition.”
France narrated that even before the implementation of the STS, many students opted to file a leave of absence because they could no longer keep up with the high tuition. Added to that are the other expenses incurred during the semester. “In the College of Fine Arts for one, many students are forced to discontinue their studies because aside from the high tuition, they also have expensive needs for their artworks.”
She also added that aside from the P1,500 tuition, there are other fees that the students also have to pay such as the laboratory fee.
Menchani Tilendo, third year BS Mining Engineering, a member of Stand UP and councilor of the University Student Council said the expensive tuition is the heaviest burden that the students carry. “Students who come to our office no longer complain about their subjects, grades or schedules but on their difficulties in paying their tuition,” Tilendo said in an interview with Bulatlat.com.
Students also complain of being “mis-bracketed” or being in a bracket that they think they should not belong to, said Tilendo.
Under the STS, Bracket A students get no discount. Bracket B students can avail of a 33.3 percent tuition discount, for Bracket C 60 percent, Bracket D 80 percent and 100 percent for Bracket E.
In a grievance consultation held by the Office of the Student Regent on July 3, participants aired their complaints on being mis-bracketed. Michael Non from the Sigma Kappa Pi Fraternity cited the case of a student who is living with a single parent who has cancer, but still got no discount under the STS. “Unemployed, they print t-shirts to pay for expenses and medicines. Yet he still got a ‘ND’ or no discount because of their house.”
Amiel Barrera from the Stand-UP College of Arts and Letters also relayed that a block mate was assigned under Bracket D instead of Bracket E1/ E2 because of the laptop that was bought out of family savings. Barrera’s block mate was assigned to a partial discount of 40 percent, “He faces more difficulties as he needs to enroll 21 major units.”
According to Student Regent Neill John Macuha, a student’s bracket is being pushed higher, even if the family has meager income, because of their “assets.” “The STS measures the capacity of a household to maintain these assets, without considering the means and reasons for acquiring them.”
Tilendo said there are many issues that the UP students are facing. She said the Master Development Plan, which was tabled during the last July 31 Board of Regents meeting further commercialized education in UP.
“In the Master Development Plan, all university spaces will be converted into a commercial space such as pay parking. Under this plan, higher rent will also be imposed on vendors inside UP,” said Tilendo.
France also said that there is a proposal to increase dorm fees. “The administration is planning to increase the fee in dorms that are offering free meals. From P2,000 ($45.44) or P3,000 ($68.15) per month, it will be increased to P5,000 ($113.59) per month.”
That is why their group has been pushing for a tuition roll back to help ease the students’ problems with their education expenses. “We spend money not only on tuition, but also on food, for paper work and projects, for our transportation, among others. That is why it would be a great help if the tuition, in a state university like UP, would be affordable.”
“The numerous expenses and exactions will not end if the government will not increase the subsidy to education,” said France, adding that all the income-generating projects UP has to implement is caused by the government’s inappropriate funding to the country’s education system.
“Yes, the government may have increased the budget for state universities and colleges such as UP. But these funds are intended for infrastructures that will generate more profits such as buildings and commercial spaces like the UP-Ayala Technohub.”
France said their protest action held on the first day of classes is the start of a series of protests against the anti-student policies imposed by the UP administration.
She also added, “Our protest also aims to encourage students to fight for their right to education. UP is not a company. It is a state university. The tuition should be accessible and affordable to Filipino students,” France said.