“As CHED has confessed, it limits free education beneficiaries so as to prevent exodus from private schools and to ensure enrollees and profits for private schools.”
By ARNETH ASIDDAO
MANILA — Youth leaders from different regions in the country stormed the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) office in Quezon City, June 22 to protest what they called as Duterte administration’s moves to limit students’ access to free education.
According to Kabataan Partylist, CHED has been pushing state universities and colleges (SUCs) to narrow down their free tuition beneficiaries by implementing more stringent admission and retention policies.
In Bulacan State University (BulSU) only 10,000 out of 20,000 will get accepted this academic year while Cagayan State University (CSU) will accept only 4,797 out of 10,523 applicants this year, according to the youth group.
Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago said, “As CHED has confessed, it limits free education beneficiaries so as to prevent exodus from private schools and to ensure enrollees and profits for private schools. Worse, CHED is set to approve hundreds of petitions for tuition and other fee increases in private higher education institutions.”
On June 14, CHED Officer-in-Charge (OIC) J. Prospero de Vera III confirmed in a press briefing that 248 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have applied for fee increase, 238 of which have applied for tuition hike while 221 have applied for increase on other school fees (OSF).
Christian Ruz, a youth activist from Cordillera, said that in their region, more than 80 percent of schools are private institutions. He added that more and more students could not attend school due to high tuition.
“Tuition costs continue to rise in our region. This only proves that the Duterte regime’s fake free education law remains to be a burden to students,” Ruz said.
Ruz also revealed that a “first come, first serve” policy was used in the implementation of free tuition law in Mountain Province State Polytechnic College (MPSPC).
Despite the passage of Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, tuition and other school fees are also still being collected in SUCs, Elago said.
The free tuition law is supposed to cover the tuition, miscellaneous and other similar fees of students enrolled in 112 SUCs, 78 local universities and colleges (LUCs) and all technical-vocational schools under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
“The moribund policy of commercialization, or the policy wherein rights are priced and barcoded, remain deeply entrenched in our education system.”
A student leader from Mindanao, Asnea Pumbaya, said that in the first semester of 2017, students of Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City were asked to pay around P3,000. Aside from tuition, they also had to deal with dormitory fees and expenses.
“Many students were forced to not enroll. They went to MSU expecting they wouldn’t have to pay anything because of the free tuition law, only to find out there’s still tuition collection,” Pumbaya explained.
“The students were asking why they still couldn’t enjoy free education. They were the ones who had to evacuate and yet, they were still being preyed on for profit,” she added.
The protesters demanded a refund for fees that were collected and challenged both the CHED and the Duterte administration to stop all forms of tuition collection and other profiteering schemes.
“We fervently challenge CHED and the Duterte administration to fully implement the free tuition and no collection policies, and hold no reservations to file complaints against them for any transgressions,” Elago said.
Free education at a price
The protesters did not only denounce stricter admission and retention policies and continuing collection of tuition and OSF in schools, but also criticized the return service system requirement included in the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the free tuition law.
Under Rule II, Section 4 of the IRR, SUCs and LUCs are required to formulate and implement a Return Service Program for students benefitting from the free tuition law, “as part of their admission and retention policies.”
Mark Vincent Lim of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) reiterated that free education should be implemented without additional requirements.
“When we say free education, there shouldn’t be anything in exchange, there should be no conditions,” Lim emphasized.
Elago said that the youth should call for the junking of additional requirements such as the return service program.
“Free education is a right and it is the state’s obligation to ensure that it is guaranteed for all. We are not denying them the service of our Iskolar ng Bayan, but it should not be used as an excuse to blackmail the youth who has long been clamoring for free education.”