“We gained initial victory in our struggle against the impending tuition hike because of our collective action. But let us also bear in mind, that the struggle is not yet over as the proposal has not yet been scrapped.” – Ugnayan ng Mag-aaral Laban sa Komersyalisasyon-PUP
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Students of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) are jubilant as they gained a temporary victory against impending tuition increases, with the state university’s Board of Regents deferring decision on the proposed hike. But the fight is far from over.
On July 2, the PUP Board of Regents deferred its decision on the proposed standard tuition and miscellaneous fees for locally-funded PUP campuses, as hundreds of PUP students stormed the gates of the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) main office in Diliman, Quezon City where the BOR meeting was being held.
“We gained initial victory in our struggle against the impending tuition hike because of our collective action. But let us also bear in mind, that the struggle is not yet over as the proposal has not yet been scrapped,” said Jess Ferrera, as she spoke at the students’ protest action in front of Ched. Ferrera is the spokeswoman of Ugnayan ng Mag-aaral Laban sa Komersyalisasyon-PUP (Umaksyon-PUP) and vice president of PUP Central Student Council.
On July 1, students at the main campus in Sta. Mesa, Manila walked out of their classes in protest of the proposed hike.
Bulatlat.com acquired a soft copy of Resolution no. 9, dated June 9, which said that the PUP executive committee approved the proposed standard tuition and miscellaneous fees for locally-funded PUP campuses. It was then endorsed by PUP President Dr. Emmanuel C. De Guzman to the Board of Regents for approval on June 20. But with the intensified action of the students, the approval of the proposal was deferred to July 2 in the BOR meeting at the Ched main office.
Ferrera said there are seven local PUP campuses tgat collect P12 per unit ($.28), namely: Cabiao in Nueva Ecija, Gen. Luna in Quezon, Pulilan and Sta. Maria in Bulacan, San Pedro and Sta. Rosa in Laguna, and San Juan City. “If implemented, these campuses will be greatly affected by the standardized tuition, which will cost P100 ($2.32) per unit or a whopping 830 percent increase,” Ferrera told Bulatlat.com.
The resolution stated that upon the renewal of the Memorandum of Agreement of the locally-funded PUP campuses, the standard tuition would be: 1) P3,000 ($69.76) per semester for baccalaureate programs, 2) P1,500 ($34.88) per semester for associate programs, and 3) P250 ($5.81) per unit plus miscellaneous fees for three-year diploma programs.
“Nothing in this document indicates that this is only applicable for select campuses like what the administration is now claiming,” said the statement of Umaksyon-PUP.
‘Fighting for the right to education’
Students in the main campus of PUP are similarly furious against the proposed tuition increase even if they are not covered by the proposal. They said that if the proposed tuition hike in the other PUP campuses pushes through, it will pave the way for similar increases in the main campus.
“If we don’t resist the proposed tuition increase in the locally-funded campuses, it is like we are being part of the system where the youth is being deprived of their right to education,” said JP, 16, a freshman IT student in PUP main. “It’s like kicking them in the face and telling them to quit school because they can’t afford to pay tuition,” he added.
Ama, 20, a fourth year student taking up Sociology said, “If we would not fight this, it’s only a matter of time before the main campus implements the same tuition increases that they have begun in the local campuses.” She said students of PUP mostly come from families with the lowest income in society, and they fear that this scheme will be the start of a standardized tuition in the whole PUP system just like in the University of the Philippines where tuition increased from P300 ($7) to P1,500 ($35).
“When approved and implemented, this tuition increase in locally-funded campuses will surely be the ground for a system-wide tuition increase,” said the Umaksyon-PUP statement.
“This is lucidly patterned after President Benigno S. Aquino III’s state policy on education, the Roadmap on Public Higher Education Reform (RPHER) which pushes state universities and colleges (SUCs) to implement various tuition schemes and income generating projects to allow the government to reduce the subsidies to SUCs by 2016 and totally turn its back on its obligations to the youth and the Filipino people.”
The PUP is the only state university in Metro Manila that offers low tuition. For 30 years, Ferrera said, the PUP remained affordable for the poor because of the students’ vigilance.
“Our campuses and branches in the provinces are located in areas where there is no state university. If the proposed standardization of tuition and miscellaneous fees in local campuses will be implemented, sons and daughters of farmers and workers will once again be robbed of their dream to attain higher education,” Ferrera said in a program in front of the Ched office.
“The deferred proposal to increase tuition and miscellaneous fees is proof that we will win any struggle if we fight collectively,” said Ferrera. She said tuition hike is just one of the issues that students of PUP are currently facing.
On May 15, Ferrera said, a new student handbook was approved in principle by the Board of Regents. The final copy of the new handbook has yet to be released by the PUP administration. “It is still open for revisions but the administration is already implementing it.”
She said the new student handbook is repressive. “One provision in the student handbook prohibits any assembly that may cause disruption of classes. In PUP main, it is a regular activity of the students to assemble and protest as part of our right to freedom of speech. So we see this as an attack to progressive groups in PUP that are pushing for the welfare of the scholars of the nation.” Such policy, she added, also goes against the history of PUP that mobilizes students to protest not only campus-based issues but also national issues.
Aside from this, Ferrera said, the students have to intensify their call for greater subsidy to education: “Now, more than ever, with all the history of student and youth struggles for accessible and quality education, we call on the students and youth of the PUP community to join the growing call for higher state subsidy to SUCs, and to hold Aquino accountable for the perennial budget cuts in education and social services. Now more than ever, it is imperative for the youth and students to defend their democratic right to free, quality and accessible education for all.”