“We recognize that achieving quality education is not easy and entails a lot of resources. But, using this as a reason for the yearly increase in tuition fee can be unjust.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Students of University of Santo Tomas (UST) and Miriam College held protest actions in their respective schools on Feb. 20, Friday, as school administrations hold consultation among students for the proposed tuition hikes for academic year 2015-2016.
UST Central Student Council – Central Board Speaker Victor Villanueva said the UST administration proposes a five to eight percent increase in tuition and a 30 percent increase in library fee.
UST students firmly believe that their school administration does not need to increase tuition and other school fees since it has billions in assets and millions in profit.
Villanueva said that based on UST’s financial statement, the university has P870 million ($19 million) in cash and P6.2 billion ($140 million) in other cash equivalents and investments. Furthermore, Villanueva added that UST has a net asset of P6.47 billion ($146 million). “Even without the restricted net assets, UST still has P565 M ($12 million),” added Villanueva.
National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) President Sarah Elago said that UST had already imposed a five percent increase in tuition last schoolyear. “The proposed tuition and other fees increases for AY 2015-2016 will be a year of burden to the students and parents,” Elago said.
To add drumbeat to their protest against tuition hikes, students used #AyokoMagmahal hash tag in social media expressing outrage against the proposed tuition increase.
“Mahal” is a Filipino word which could mean “loved,” “precious” or “expensive.” The hashtag is a play on “I don’t want to love” and “I don’t want (tuition) to increase.”
The NUSP said the hashtag #AyokoMagmahal trended in social media on Feb. 19.
Meanwhile, in Miram College, students led by Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral ng Miriam and members of the Council Leaders also held their protest against the proposed five percent increase in tuition for the academic year 2015-2016 of Miriam College’s Higher Education Unit (HEU).
“We recognize that achieving quality education is not easy and entails a lot of resources. However, using this as a reason for the yearly increase in tuition fee can be unjust, for the students have not even seen or felt the necessary improvements for the past years within the institution,” their Manifesto of Unity read.
The University of the East (UE) – Caloocan student leaders, meanwhile decried the Feb. 18 consultation, as bogus. “It was not a genuine consultation,” said Dominic Pinero, UE Caloocan College of Fine Arts and Design (CFAD) Student Council President. Pinero was among the five student council presidents of UE Caloocan whose original plan was to boycott the consultation sponsored by the school administration, but were forced by the Student Affairs Office to attend the consultation.
Pinero and four other student council presidents then refused to sign the attendance sheet as they did not believe that the consultation was genuine.
Pinero said the UE administration is proposing a five percent increase in tuition and five percent increase in all other school fees for AY 2015-2016. “This means that each other school fee, such as energy fee and internet fee, among others, shall have a five percent increase.”
Tuition in UE, according to NUSP ranges from P27,000 ($610) to 45,000 (P1,017) per semester.
Pinero said they knew that the consultation was a mere occasion for UE President Dr. Ester Garcia to “inform and justify” to the students the planned increases. A real consultation, said Pinero, should hear and consider dissenting opinions, such as the students’ opposition to the increase, as students are the primary stakeholders of the university.
However, during the consultation, Pinero said Garcia justified the proposed increase “because UE, as opposed to the De La Salle University – College of St. Benilde, caters better quality education at a lower tuition rate.”
Pinero added that their questions were not answered. “Often times, answers to our questions were diverted. It was not a democratic consultation.”
Charlene Dabu, Central Student Council President of UE Caloocan also asked Garcia for proof, such as the audited financial statement of the university, if indeed 70 percent of the proceeds of the tuition increase last academic year went to teachers’ and employees’ salaries. “Garcia said the documents are already with the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) and that these are not for ‘public display.’”
However, it was stated in the Ched Memorandum Order No. 3 series of 2012, or the Guidelines on Tuition and Other School Fees that, “The Higher Education Institutions’ latest audited financial report shall be made available to authorized parties upon request.”
“In Aquino’s five years in office, tuition and other school fees approximately range from P14,000 ($316) to P17,000 ($384). It is high time to junk the Education Act of 1982, which is the root cause why school administrators are liberally allowed to profit from students and make tuition and OSF (other school fees) deregulated,” Elago said.
Youth and student groups are now gearing up for the national day of walk outset on Feb. 27. Aside from protesting incessant tuition hikes under President Benigno S. Aquino III’s administration, the youth and students will also call for his resignation. Prior to that, they will also participate on Feb. 25, in forming a “human chain for justice and accountability” along EDSA.