Nanay Fe professes how shocked she was when she saw Karina’s tuition. She was ill prepared for the cost of higher education, assuming cheaper tuition from the “University of the People.” Yet, when Karina expressed her desire to study in one of the nation’s “top” learning institutions, Nanay Fe vowed to work doubly hard. She holds out her trembling hands – hands that seem as old as her sewing machine, the veins protruding through the wrinkled skin. “Pasmado,” (trembling hands) she explains – the result of long hours of sewing.
After reviewing the STFAP application form, Karina surmises how she ended up in bracket C. On page seven, she had to indicate the gross income of family members “who are employed or earning.” She confessed that she has a half-brother in Canada, his annual income relatively more substantial than others. Yet, because he already has his own family, he sends money intermittently – on some months P3, 000 ($65.57), on some months, nothing.
On the next pages, Karina had to specify her house’s total area.
Karina pointed that their living quarters are part of a bigger house, which they did not own.
She wondered, however, if such intricacies are considered by the STFAP committee. On page eight was a listing of every possible appliance a family can acquire.
Karina indicated that they own a TV, stove, refrigerator, washing machine, sewing machine and two electric fans. All of their appliances, however, were already decades old.
Using the above information, the STFAP committee determines the bracket through a set of mechanisms, one of which is the new income function. In this function, assets are assigned a corresponding monetary value at ceteris paribus which holds “all things the same,” effectively ignoring asset depreciation.
For instance, a 1980 Volkswagen will have the same value as the latest Jaguar.
Nanay Fe asserts that the function fails to reflect real family income.
Today, most families have at least one relative working abroad. The presence of appliances, meanwhile, does not mean they can afford the tuition, “Sino ba ang walang TV? Walang stove? Eh…kelangan mo ‘yun eh.”(Who does not own a TV? Who has no stove? These things are needed.) Nanay Fe jokes grimly that she may even have to pawn her appliances to pay for Karina’s succeeding tuition.
During the freshmen parents’ orientation, Nanay Fe was among those who questioned the bracketing procedure.
“Sabi ni [Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs Elizabeth] Enriquez…hindi pa permanente ang bracketing. ‘Pag may dumating na na matigas na card, yun na ang permanenteng bracket,” (We were told by Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs Elizabeth Enriquez that the current bracketing is not yet permanent. Your bracketing is deemed permanent once you receive a hard card.) Nanay Fe says. Many of the parents in attendance also asked for lower brackets, proving that Karina is not an isolated case. “Sabi ni Ma’am Enriquez, makipag-usap na lang sa opisina.”(We were told to just settle this with the office.) To this day, Nanay Fe awaits the response to her appeal.
Just last year, Roman introduced the new STFAP as a system that ensures democratic “access and admission to [UP ’s] various academic programs and promote[s] fairness and social justice.”
Today, however, parents like Nanay Fe, who have “absolutely nothing,” are burdened with an amount they cannot cope with.
For Nanay Fe, the concept of a “democratized admission policy” is fundamentally at odds with the existence of STFAP. She reasons that in a truly democratic admission system, learning is accessible to all regardless of their economic conditions, thus eliminating any need for the STFAP.
Meanwhile, the STFAP ’s proponents proclaim that unless their critiques come up with a “superior and much less costly [system]” that can replace the new STFAP, then all must hold their peace. But there can be no peace for Nanay Fe, whose pained hands still struggle to secure her daughter’s education. There can be no peace for Karina, whose desire to learn is at odds with a system that only a few can afford. Unless genuinely accessible quality education becomes the norm rather than the exception, there will be no peace in the university. Philippine Collegian/Posted by
* Real names were withheld upon request.