“Unfortunately, both CHED [Commission on Higher Education] and the Department of Education (DepEd) have miserably failed to curb the meteoric rise in tuition and other school fees. Their issuances and memorandum orders are inherently full of loopholes and appear merely to give the illusion that these agencies are actually doing something about the problem when the opposite is true.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Pam Estilong, 30, was shocked when she enrolled her daughter Yanna for the coming school year. From P27,000 ($617.21) last year, they had to pay P32,000 ($731.51) for Yanna’s tuition this year. “My husband had P33,000 (P754.37) that day, the excess was supposedly for the payment of our bills, and for my younger daughter’s diaper and milk. We were not able to buy those items and went home instead.”
Estilong said they had no idea that there would be an increase in tuition. “We were not informed (of the increase). Or maybe it is my fault that I was not able to look at the matrix of tuition they gave us last year. But there was no consultation.”
This is contrary to the statement of Education Assistant Secretary Tonosito Umali last week who said that proposals for tuition hikes underwent proper consultation. The Department of Education gave a go-signal to 1,299 private elementary and secondary schools to increase their tuition by five to 35 percent for the academic year 2014-2015.
To help parents like Estilong, the Makabayan bloc is urging Congress to fast track House Bill 698 or “The Private School Fee Regulation Act.”
“Because of the rising fees in private schools, official records show an exodus of students from private to public schools. In 1980, only 10 percent of college students were enrolled in state colleges and universities. By 1994, the number went up to 21 percent and later 40 percent in 2007. The same trend has been observed in the elementary and high school levels,” the HB 698 Explanatory Note read.
“Unfortunately, both CHED [Commission on Higher Education] and the Department of Education (DepEd) have miserably failed to curb the meteoric rise in tuition and other school fees. Their issuances and memorandum orders are inherently full of loopholes and appear merely to give the illusion that these agencies are actually doing something about the problem when the opposite is true,” the progressive lawmakers said further.
“The Legislative branch cannot sit idly as the cost of education rises dramatically beyond the reach of the ordinary Filipino. Capitalist educators must not be allowed to turn education from a right to a privilege,” they added.
Makabayan bloc is composed of seven representatives from partylist groups Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela Women’s Party, Kabataan and ACT Teachers Party.
Estilong’s daughter, Yanna, is an incoming junior in a private secondary school in Muntinlupa City. “We are affected by the increase. Even if I am not working, it is still difficult for me because I had to budget the money especially if you know that it’s not enough,” she told Bulatlat.com in an interview. Her husband is a seafarer who is in the country now. She worries that the money they have won’t be enough until her husband goes on board the ship again.
Parents who are sending their children to college suffer the same predicament as Estilong’s. CHED has initially approved applications for tuition hike of 171 private higher education institutions. The list of approved tuition hike applications from Regions 2, 3 and the National Capital Region have yet to be released by CHED.
In a report, CHED chairwoman Patricia Licuanan said an average tuition hike per unit is 9.30 percent or P36.83 ($.84), and 14.64 percent or P227.01 ($2.19) for other school fees.
The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) said CHED has not even acted on the complaints filed by the student organizations with regard to violations of school administrators. “No hearings were set or conducted. No resolution on complaints filed,” the group said in a statement. Violations include the absence of or incomplete information on tuition increase, no notice of consultation, financial statement not made available to the students, among others.
The NUSP called on Congress and the Senate to pass not only HB 698 but also House Bill 345 or “The Tuition Moratorium Bill” and House Bill 1098 or “The Student Rights Bill,” an act establishing a magna carta of students primarily authored by Kabataan Partylist.
“Grossly negligent and grossly inefficient are not enough to describe CHED. As if adding insult to injury, CHED chairwoman Licuanan has made up a myth that the problem of high tuition can be addressed by scholarships and loans. When in fact, these are mere moves by an obviously guilty accomplice to the crime of tuition increase. We will not take this sitting down,” Sarah Elago, NUSP national president, said.
Elago explained that that they have nothing against scholarships. “But the fact is there is no need for scholarships if CHED and the Aquino government are really fulfilling their duty to ensure that students access quality education, instead of treating education as a priced commodity. Accessible education means everyone can receive quality education without asking for alms of scholarships or being subsumed to the capitalist culture of student loans.”
She said further, “Licuanan’s line of argument regarding scholarships and student loans is consistent with the Education Act of 1982, an act that deregulates education. Scholarship grants are mere band-aid solutions, escapism to cloak the real issues of the education sector. Students and youth need not to seek morsels or alms in the form of scholarships, or to loan for his/her education. That is outright deprivation of the right of a student to access education since providing accessible education is the government’s constitutional accountability and responsibility.”