May 17, 2008. Two weeks ago, I was in UP almost every day manning the University Student Council booth at the University Registrar building and distributing party statements to freshmen and their parents in my free time. One thing that I found really apparent was that the overwhelmingly common query among incoming freshmen and their parents was with regards to the socialized tuition scheme of the university. Parents kept asking how they could avail of lower tuition rates, and how they all lamented the exorbitant tuition they have to pay for their children. Some parents even went on to give unsolicited narrations of their family’s financial struggles, especially in light of the relentless increases in prices of staple and other basic commodities. A housewife from Albay who was accompanying her son, lamented how she was placed in Bracket A in the socialized tuition scheme (the bracket reserved for rich families) and made to pay 1,500 per unit when her husband is only a farmer.
One afternoon, former Student Regent Terry Ridon and I went to the parents’ waiting area and spoke in front of the crowd. I didn’t expect the parents’ response to be overwhelming. Parents were talking to us left and right telling us how difficult it has become to send their children to UP. They expressed support for the campaign to junk the policy and they all signed our manifesto.
This year’s enrollment in Diliman is a low 2,600+ out of more than four thousand qualifiers, which further reinforces the effect that has manifested after the tuition increase was implemented. As the second year of its implementation reinforce this trend, hopefully it builds a stronger case against the policy by lending it more credence. I find it tragic that UP might be losing many of the brightest youths because some of them can’t afford education in the national university. Instead of recruiting the best and the brightest of Filipino youths, regardless of financial capacity, UP increasingly becomes like any other private university, selling education to the highest bidder while providing token scholarships to some as a smokescreen to its commercialized policies.
AS UP WELCOMES FRESHMEN: HIGH FEES GREET NEW ISKOLARS NG BAYAN
In many ways, it is a dream to be able to study at the University of the Philippines, the country’s premier state university, a school that has for years offered inexpensive but quality education to generations of Filipinos. But these days, due to steep increases in tuition and other fees, for many students, studying in UP becomes just that””a dream.
It has only been about a year since the Tuition & Other Fee Increases (TOFI) was passed by the UP Board of Regents under questionable circumstances (student and faculty consultations came late and were far from comprehensive; there was a serious lack of proper consultation with incoming freshmen as well as their parents even if they are the ones who would be severely affected by TOFI; and UP ignored its students’ and teachers’ calls to junk the policy)””but the damage is severe and far-reaching. Students now have to pay a whopping P1,000 per unit instead of P300 per unit as before. This does not even include similarly overpriced miscellaneous fees and laboratory fees, all in all amounting to more than P21,000 a semester, nearly double the national average tuition set in private universities.
This became a signal to other state universities to follow suit and increase their tuition, further cutting off the people’s access to inexpensive but quality education. The UP administration tried to argue back with its revised Socialized Tuition & Financial Assistance Program (STFAP), touting it as a way to help aid poor students. However, STFAP is seriously flawed and is merely a smokescreen policy used by the administration to justify TOFI. There are many documented cases of students under STFAP being assigned to higher income bracket not reflective of their economic status.
Damning evidence against STFAP is the sharp drop in freshman enrollment in UP after TOFI was passed. Some quota courses had less freshmen enrollees relative to their quotas. Even worse, courses that were not considered “marketable” (like Araling Pilipino and Malikhaing Pagsulat) had zero freshmen enrollees. The common sentiment: “Bakit pa ako mag-aaral sa UP kung pareho rin lang naman ang tuition sa private schools?” The UP administration tried to argue back, saying the government cannot afford to give UP and the rest of the educational sector sufficient budget allocations. But we know that there are billions of pesos in government, but instead of being funneled to important basic social services like education, they are wasted, bribed away, and used to feed Arroyo’s corrupt regime and her cronies’ bloated pockets. Instead of pursuing national development by providing accessible education as provided by our Constitution, the Arroyo regime chooses to abandon tertiary education with its Long Term Higher Education and Development Plan (LTHEDP) 2001-2010, which aims to increase the tuition of 70% of state colleges and universities (SCU), including UP, and to cut off subsidy to 20% of SCUs. Such policy is being implemented in a condition where as much as 80% of our countrymen are living in poverty, where there is severe unemployment and relentless increases in the cost of basic staples and other goods.
In many ways, we are betrayed. The UP administration chooses to treat TOFI as a “stable source of income” as opposed to fighting aggressively for its rightful government subsidy. The Arroyo regime betrayed us by blatantly refusing to provide access to basic social services like education. Instead of recruiting the best young minds in the country, regardless of their financial capacity, UP becomes just like any other private school, selling education to the highest bidder.
We in STAND-UP oppose unfair, anti-student and anti-masses policies like the TOFI and LTHEDP. We in STAND-UP believe that we must continue to demand for higher state subsidy and the ouster of a corrupt, fascist, and morally bankrupt Arroyo regime. We in STAND-UP believe that education is a right and not a privilege. We in STAND-UP wholeheartedly welcome this year’s batch of freshmen and enjoin them in our struggle for a pro-people and pro-student education.
JUNK TOFI! FIGHT FOR GREATER STATE SUBSIDY! DOWN WITH THE CORRUPT ARROYO GOVERNMENT! SERVE THE PEOPLE!