Youth groups led by Kabataan Partylist and the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) marched to the office of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in Diliman at 11 a.m. February 21, 2013 to protest the proliferation of “bogus” tuition hike consultations in both public and private colleges and universities throughout the country.
Student leaders called on CHED to “tighten its grip” on colleges and universities that will be passing proposals for tuition and other fee increases for the coming academic year. “Through the Tuition Monitor Network spearheaded by NUSP, we have received various complaints from students in different universities regarding the conduct of tuition and other fee increase consultations. The youth is reminding CHED today that it promised to be stricter on approving tuition increase proposals for next school year, a promise that has yet to be seen and felt by students the nation over,” said Victor Villanueva, national president of NUSP and fourth nominee of Kabataan Partylist.
Last year, CHED has released Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 3, Series of 2012, wherein it stated stricter guidelines for the imposition of new and higher fees. The said memorandum explicitly requires schools to inform students of impending hikes, and conduct consultations before passing their proposal to the commission. However, most colleges and universities are “blatantly violating” the memorandum, said Kabataan Partylist President Terry Ridon. “The memo in itself is a paper tiger, as CHED has no inherent mechanism to monitor violations. And that is why the youth has launch an independent tuition hike monitor, which will consolidate reports of violations and submit it to CHED,” Ridon added. At present, the top violator of CMO 3 is the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) in Manila, Tuition Monitor Network reveals.
According to a manifesto signed by several student councils and organizations in UST, there is an impending 5-percent tuition hike in their university next year. “With the worsening economic crisis, manifested by low wages and continuous job lay-offs, it would be insensitive for a Catholic school to implement another tuition increase this year,” UST students said in the manifesto. They noted that for the past decade, tuition in UST has increase by 75 percent, from P716 per unit in 2003 to P1,249 per unit in 2013.
The students added that the fees listed by the UST administration are “dubious, redundant, absurd and ambiguous” in its allocation. Examples of such fees include the Special Development Fee (ranging from P500 – P2000), Physical Infrastructure Development Fee (P1,700), Energy Fee (to increase from P1,500 to P2,000) and Information Development Fee (P1,500). UST is also not following CHED guidelines on tuition hike consultations.
“Despite being required by CHED, the said university has reportedly avoided conducting tuition increase consultations to avoid opposition from the student body,” Ridon said. UST students also noted that even the “instalment fee” – an additional payment padded by the administration for students who cannot pay in full – will increase from P600 to P1,500. “Hindi na nga kayang magbayad ng estudyante ng buo, papatungan pa ang bayad. Tapos ngayon, tataas pa ang instalment fee,” Ridon stressed.
Tuition Monitor Network is still consolidating reports from various colleges and universities and is set to file a consolidated complaint to CHED on the last day of the recommended period for tuition hike consultations in schools, which falls on February 28. “We will not let reports of abuse be left in the dark. It is time for students to take a collective stand against bogus tuition hike consultations and oppose all forms of intimidation, manipulation, and violation of students’ rights perpetrated by profit-oriented school owners,” Villanueva said.
Meanwhile, Kabataan Partylist also challenged CHED to “cease being a worthless paper tiger” and truly protect students’ welfare. “We remember grimly how CHED allowed hundreds of schools to increase tuition year after year, even if the said schools are grossly violating guidelines imposed by the commission,” Villanueva said. Before the start of the current academic year, CHED received over 2,000 tuition hike applications, of which over 200 were approved. “Let this be a warning and a reminder from the youth: CHED Chair Patricia Licuanan, we are watching your every move. Prove that your commission is sincere in protecting students’ rights and welfare. Junk all proposals for tuition increase,” Ridon concluded.###