By INA ALLECO SILVERIO
MANILA – A few months before the 2011-2012 academic year ends, Kabataan Party-List sponsored a consultative assembly in the House of Representatives regarding the issue of increasing tuition and related fees. The activity was held jointly with the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education. Organizers said the assembly was held in anticipation of the impending wave of proposed tuition increases in the coming summer session and school year.
Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino said his group conducted the assembly to provide a venue for students and stakeholders to voice their views on the increasing inaccessibility of higher education. He said these sectors should be able to participate in the crafting of regulatory guidelines to address the long-standing problem of unabated tuition and other fee increases in both private and public universities all over the country.
“In the past ten years, tuition and other fees were increased without any strict regulation. It’s long overdue that this trend be put to an end by installing regulatory guidelines that put premium on democratic consultation practices and accessibility of quality education for the youth,” he said.
Palatino explained that the national average rate of tuition and other fees in the past decade doubled. According to him, the high tuition rates is a crucial factor behind the also increasing dropout rates and the inability of many high school graduates to pursue a college education.
With pressure from Kabataan party-list last year during a public hearing in Congress that tackled the youth group’s resolution on exorbitant school fees, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) was pushed to draft a new tuition and other fee guidelines which the commission presented in the assembly.
Based on reports, the Ched intends to implement the new set of guidelines governing tuition and other fee increases by school year 2013-2014.
Among the salient features of the guidelines are the inclusion of miscellaneous fees in the consultation and sanctions for non-compliance, which includes cancellation of school application for fee increases and introduction of new fees. Administrative and criminal charges can also be filed against violating schools and/or its responsible officers.
Student leaders, however, pointed out loopholes in the guidelines, as well as limitations which make them somewhat biased against students. They said these limitations include the lack of clearly stipulated method for democratic consultations.
The president of the central student council of the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) said that for the next school year, the UST is set to implement a 19 percentincrease in the tuition and other fees for freshmen and six percent for 2nd year to 4th year students. She also raised concerns on the policy of the university that bars students with pending arrears from enrolling.
Aniwan Valerio, president of the university student council of the University of the East (UE), for his part, said many students are intimidated during consultations because of the school’s authority and technical expertise. He underscored the need for definite consultation guidelines that should be democratic and conducive to student participation.
John Mark Villanueva, secretary of Lyceum university student council, on the other hand, scored how the school hides behind its autonomous status to exempt itself from any form of tuition and other fee guidelines.
Palatino, in the light of the issues raised by the students, said the guidelines still have to be polished and discussed in as many schools possible especially for the benefit of students and parents. He stressed the urgency to implement the new set of guidelines for the school year 2012-2013.
The youth solon also echoed the assertion of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) and Anakbayan that while the polishing of the guidelines is ongoing, a three-year tuition moratorium should be implemented to give time for the consultations and to provide immediate economic relief for students.
On the top of the guidelines being crafted with Ched, Palatino is also pushing for the passage into law of his two tuition and other fee bills, namely HB no. 3708 or the “Three-year Tuition Moratorium Act” and HB no. 4286 or the “Tuition and Other Fees Regulation Act.”