Anna is a first year student in UP Diliman (UPD). She is among the first batch of students affected by the approved 300 percent tuition and other fee increases (TFI). Her first semester alone cost her family P17,000 ($413.22 at an exchange rate of $1=P41.14) for 15 units. To pay the P1,000 ($24.30) per unit rate, her parents resorted to borrowing from relatives and from 5-6 operators — usurers who charge a twenty percent interest on loans. Anna’s plight is echoed by hundreds of other freshmen
BY MA. ROSA CER M. DELA CRUZ
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 45, December 16-22, 2007
Anna is a first year student in UP Diliman (UPD). She is among the first batch of students affected by the approved 300 percent tuition and other fee increases (TFI). Her first semester alone cost her family P17,000 ($413.22 at an exchange rate of $1=P41.14) for 15 units. She was unable to apply for the university’s Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP), an incentive-granting scheme based on one’s family income and expenditures, because her admission letter arrived late at her home in Bicol. Her parents, both already retired, were unable to procure income tax returns as required by the STFAP. To pay the P1,000 ($24.30) per unit rate, her parents resorted to borrowing from relatives and from 5-6 operators — usurers who charge a twenty percent interest on loans.
A second look
Anna’s plight is echoed by hundreds of other freshmen, prompting Student Regent (SR) Terry Ridon to draft a proposal to review the TFI .The review aims to determine the effects of the TFI, to reexamine and criticize the policy bases and presumptions of the new STFAP, and make
recommendations that will address the problems in both the TFI and STFAP.
The review presented an overall decline in freshman enrolment for academic year 2007-2008, as well as a high system-wide number of UPCAT passers who deferred their slots. Additionally, it asserts that the TFI causes UP’s loss of “comparative advantage to other schools in terms of affordability,” removes the democratic access to state education, and opens the doors to free competition with private universities and colleges.
In addition, three TFI buffer mechanisms suggested by the BOR were cited: early announcement of the TFI implementation, installment payment schemes and the STFAP. However, these buffers were considered ineffective by the review. The installment scheme did not materialize, while the STFAP “was hardly felt to adequately address the students’ financial concerns.”
In a survey conducted by Ridon together with the School of Statistics-Student Council, 66.1 percent of freshmen STFAP applicants thought the incentives are inadequate. In the light of these perceived problems, the review recommended nine courses of action.
Some of these recommendations are: “[to] reaffirm the fundamental principles of democratic access and widening participation” through TFI repeal, suspension and reassessment of the STFAP, and the abrogation of the annual automatic increase based on inflation rate.
Aside from these recommendations, the review also shows the continuing resistance of both parents and students. Around 94.7 percent of the survey’s respondents expressed disapproval of the TFI, while 89 percent considered the 300 percent increase heavy in terms of their finances. A majority, 54.8 percent, even calls for tuition rollback.
Upon receiving the review on the September 28 BOR meeting, Roman asked for time to read and analyze the content of the document. Thus, the dialogue was scheduled on October 23, which was also attended by the University Student Council (USC).
In defense, the UP administration presented its own data from a Diliman survey conducted
through phone. The administration was able to contact 628 of the 1,248 deferred UPD
passers. Majority of the respondents in the survey reportedly chose private schools like Ateneo de Manila and De La Salle Universities instead of UPD — 89 received scholarship grants, while
35 were accepted in Intermed programs. In contrast, only 20 respondents cited financial problems, and four specified the high tuition as reasons for not enrolling in UP.
Meanwhile, the installment scheme failed to materialize because the administration is “looking at the situation in all campuses,” Roman says. “There is a committee working on the installment payment but the report is not yet complete.” She presented the university’s student loan program as substitute, stating that the amount of student loans granted has “increased substantially.”
Aside from student loans, Roman also presented the “success” of STFAP. Roman says that 49 percent of freshmen students applied for STFAP. “Mas marami ngayon, di hamak. Kasi last year, four percent lang ang beneficiaries ng STFAP…of the total students in the undergrad.” (There are more this year. Because last year only four percent of the students were beneficiaries of STFAP)
Presently, Roman insists that there is neither the possibility nor need to suspend the TFI and the STFAP. “They [freshmen students] don’t oppose it [TFI], they recognize it,” she says. “About 49 percent of freshmen students applied for STFAP. This means that 51 percent did not apply and were not questioning it, [because] they were willing to pay.”
Ridon, however, disagrees with Roman’s assumption that the increase in student loan and STFAP applications is a manifestation of the TFI’s success. He states that the present STFAP bracketing is “inadequate,” as it places more students in higher income brackets and creates a
smaller fully-subsidized group. “To say that this [increase in student loans] is a sign of the validity of the tuition increase would be erroneous,” says Ridon.
“ The student loan phenomenon only proves that many students are affected by the TFI.” In a survey cited by the review, students and their families resort not just to the student loans and the STFAP but also to salary loans, scholarships, OFW remittances and even loans from 5-6
operators, like in Anna’s case.
Furthermore, Ridon points that the Diliman survey attests that only rich students can afford to enter UP. It is also a manifestation of the restrictive access to education. “It [Diliman survey] only
proves na ang mga estudyante from public schools ay hindi na nakakapag- UPCAT,” says Ridon. “Hindi na nila maipasa yung exam.” (Students from public schools are not able to take the UPCAT. They find it difficult to pass the exams.)
Despite Ridon’s appeal, there is no motion to suspend the TFI presently. The recommendation to suspend the subsequent increase in tuition as pegged by the inflation rate was not approved. “We are looking into it,” says Roman. “We need more time to get the data and study them.”
The BOR has yet to decide this November. The SR, however, remains unyielding in his stand against the TFI. “We are still challenging the validity of the TFI,” says Ridon. He plans to
hold an inter-USC caucus on tuition increase and commercialization to further study the bigger picture of the immediate effects of TFI and its influence on UP ’s future as state university.
This semester, Anna has not yet paid the P17,000 for her 15 units. Her parents are trying to raise that amount by asking financial help from their relatives. She has applied for a private scholarship instead of the STFAP, believing that it will benefit her more than the latter.
Anna’s problems are experienced by hundreds of other students all over the university. The TFI did not improve the students’ conditions, but instead worsened their already dire situation. If the
UP administration is reluctant to repeal this inherently flawed policy, then it is inevitable that the students themselves take action in order to assert their right to affordable quality education. Philippine Collegian/posted by Bulatlat