By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — Youth groups lambasted the latest round of government-approved tuition and other fee increases for private schools and colleges.
On June 10, Friday, student activists led by the Kabataan Partylist, Anakbayan and League of Filipino Students (LFS) and College Editors Guild of the Philippines stormed the main office of the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) to protest the approval of tuition and other fees hike in 304 private universities, as well as the approval of tuition hikes in over 1,200 basic education institutions.
The protesters pelted Ched’s gates with red paint as a sign of indignation, saying that the agency once again proved to be a “mere stamp pad” of education companies.
“It seems that the Aquino administration is not yet done with inflicting harm to the people, with his administration’s recent approval of tuition and other fee increases in both basic and higher education institutions,” Anakbayan secretary general Einstein Recedes said.
On June 9, Ched approved an average tuition hike of P43 ($1) per unit while other school fees were allowed to increase up to 5.4 percent or P116 ($2).
“If this is President Aquino’s farewell gift to the youth, we reject it just as we reject his calamitous legacy,” he said.
Data gathered by Kabataan Partylist showed that tuition rates doubled within the past five years. Annual tuition rose from an average of P30,000 to P50,000 ($651 to $1,085) in 2010, to P60,000 to P100,000 ($1,302 to $2,170) in 2015.
Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago called the new wave of fee increases “unjustifiable” and “a criminal act against the welfare of the youth.”
“The speedy approval of tuition hikes despite the clear opposition of student groups clearly illustrates the deregulated nature of education in the country in all levels,” Elago added.
Aries Gupit, LFS secretary general pointed out that Ched has the power to limit tuition and other school fees in private colleges and universities. He cited the Supreme Court ruling, Lina vs. Cariño, which states that Ched and Department of Education “can set the guidelines and limit impositions of tuition adjustments.”
“Instead of preventing increases in tuition and other school fees, the Ched has propelled further spiraling cost of education. Its directives such as Ched Memo Order No. 3 shows how it acts merely as an instrument to ensure billions of profits for private schools,” Gupit said.
Gupit said that during the six years of Aquino’s “daang matuwid’ (righteous path), six students committed suicide over their inability to afford college tuition.
“It is too revolting – scandalous even – that students continue to die because of the high cost of education,” he said.
Gupit blamed Aquino’s implementation of the Education Act of 1982 which he said has “legitimized the complete control of education institutions to arbitrarily impose the cost of education which resulted to annual increases.”
He added that Aquino’s education policies such as Roadmap to Higher Public Education (RPHER) and K to 12 also pushed for privatization and commercialization of education.
Nationwide tuition moratorium
The youth groups once again called on the incoming Duterte administration to execute policies that would restrict the increasing cost of education in the country, specially amid the people’s worsening poverty.
“At the minimum, we call for a nationwide tuition moratorium. At the maximum, we call for free public education in the country,” said Elago.
“Coupled with the full implementation of the K to 12 program, the new spate of tuition increases in basic education will surely aggravate the education crisis in the country,” she added.
Elago said that many parents work harder to send their children in private schools to escape the horrors of public schools such as lack of facilities and shortages from chairs to books.
“Yet if primary and secondary institutions also continue to increase tuition, students will again be forced to return to public schools, or even drop out of school,” Elago said.