UP has been allocated P376 million to cover the tuition of all students, yet fee collection continues.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Students of University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman walked out of their midterm classes July 6 in renewed protests against the collection of tuition from students, despite the Free Tuition Policy 2017 of the Duterte administration.
The students specifically criticized UP’s creation of the Student Financial Assistance Online (SFA Online), an online process for students who wish to apply for the university’s different financial aid offerings. These include the application for Free Tuition Policy, the Socialized Tuition System and Commission of Higher Education’s (Ched) Tulong Dunong financial assistance program.
“It collects and consolidates data on household income, as well as the socio-economic characteristics of the household of students. Scholarships and Student Affairs units in UP use these data to allocate slots and create complementing financial assistance programs for University students,” the UP website read.
UP Student Regent Raoul Manuel in a statement said that UP administration admitted that they will still collect tuition from the students. This goes completely against the crux of free tuition for all, he said adding that the SFA Online is merely a consolidation of existing policies.
“Students will be compelled to undergo a stringent qualification process, and be lured to an expanded tuition discount system,” he said in a statement.
In December 2016, President Duterte approved the allocation of P8.3 billion ($163 million) for free tuition. Student and youth groups welcomed this which they said is a victory of their struggle for free education. However, it turned out that implementing rules and regulations crafted by the Ched and Department of Budget and Management only institutionalized socialized tuition scheme, similar to that which is being implemented in UP.
For the implementation of the Free Tuition Policy (FTP), UP has been allocated P376 million ($7.4 million) to cover the tuition of all UP students.
‘UP earning billions’
Manuel said imposition of fees in the university for decades have increased its profits. Citing data from DBM Manuel said profits of UP has doubled from 1999 to 2015. “The cash balance of the university, standing at P5.5 billion ($108 million) at the end of 1999, has ballooned to P12 billion ($236 million) by 2015 and is expected to remain stable as 2017 ends,” he said.
“With such a huge amount in the coffers of UP, we find no justification for the continued collection of fees except for the extraction of profit from the students,” said Manuel.
Manuel said that other state colleges and universities have reaped the fruits of free tuition. For one, the Bulacan State University (BulSU) administration has announced that all students will be covered by the Free Tuition budget, said a report by Pacesetter, the official student publication of the university.
BulSU President Cecilia Gascon said in a dialogue with the Student Government that students would only have to pay for miscellaneous fee. Students who have paid other than that will be refunded.
“Ima-maximize na ang free tuition sa lahat ng students. Wala nang prioritization,” Gascon was quoted as saying by The Pacesetter. (We will maximize free tuition for all students. There will be no more prioritization.)
The Free Tuition Policy IRR indicated prioritization of students for free tuition, particularly those who are already under Ched’s Student Financial Assistance Programs and members of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
“They did not have to go through the excruciating process of submitting requirements to prove that they are qualified. Why can’t this be done in UP?” Manuel lamented.
He added that UP is not only duty-bound to implement free tuition, but more so, it should ensure that nationalist and quality education is accessible to all.
Einsten Recedes, Anakbayan secretary general, called UP’s tuition collection “neoliberalism at its finest.”
“There is no reason why UP cannot stop collecting tuition except for the constant itch to suck profits from students and their families,” said Recedes.
“We cannot allow the intensified commercialization of UP consistent with neoliberal policies that transform educational institutions into profit-making diploma mills that mass produces cheap labor for export. We must fight for a nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented education,” said Recedes.