This is an article I contributed to our fraternity‘s magazine regarding the issue of socialized tuition in the University of the Philippines.
Socialized tuition is far from socializing access to UP education. It has instead made access to the national university largely inaccessible to a wide number of the brightest college-age youth of the country. The present socialized tuition scheme is nothing more than a mechanism for systematic state neglect of higher education. It has always been part and parcel of any attempt to increase matriculation in UP, so a discussion of socialized tuition cannot be had without discussing the context of state neglect of the national university and other institutions of social and public service. One cannot be divorced from the other, and any attempt to do so, is merely parroting national government scapegoats.
Socialized tuition was introduced in 1988 and was used to justify the increase in tuition the year after. The 300% increase in tuition in 2006 also came with a ‘restructuring’ of the socialized tuition scheme. More recently, another ‘restructuring’ of the socialized tuition scheme required prospective and present students to answer an absurd set of questions pertaining to their family’s lifestyle and submit sets of documents to prove they deserve to be in a tuition bracket aside from Bracket A – which means that the University assumes that a scholar is capable of paying P1,500 per unit until proven otherwise.
The result is very telling. From 20% of students who were afforded free tuition (full subsidy) in 1991, it has significantly dropped to a mere 3% in 2014. For 2014, 54% of students are, correctly or not, made to pay P1,500 unit. This lends truth to an observation by many that the University has been overrun by ‘rich students’ who are, correctly or not, assumed to be financially capable to pay full tuition.
For the most part of the university’s existence as a higher institution of learning, policies were crafted and imposed by the Board of Regents (BOR), the highest policy-making body in the university, without the students’ participation.
For the longest time, the BOR had no student representative–the university’s largest constituency long subjected to policies they didn’t see coming. Through sustained and collective efforts of the students, however, which began during the First Quarter Storm, heightened and intensified further during the dark years of Martial Law and beyond, the Office of the Student Regent (OSR) was established.
The OSR serves as the student-run institution where the Student Regent, the sole voting member of the BOR, who comes form the university’s largest sector, is seated. Instituted in 1986, it has served to uphold the interests of the students, voting and arguing on their behalf from issues ranging from appointments of deans to increases in laboratory fees and tuition.
The enactment of RA 9500 or the new UP Charter, however, endangers this institution, under the smokescreen of democratization, by actually subjecting a decade-old Student Regent selection process crafted by duly-elected student council representatives across the UP System and subjected to debates and amendments every year, to a terribly difficult challenge–a challenge that the administration cunningly knows, given the trend of student election turnouts, has the tendency to fail. UP, after all, has more than 55,000 students system-wide.