Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VI, No. 38      Oct. 29 -Nov. 4, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines








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On the proposed TFI:
‘How can students like us cope?’ – UP Grad

Daisy graduated from the university only last April, after struggling for four years juggling odd jobs and academic duties. Her story is a depiction of the hardships of students who can barely pay their stay in college, even in a state university such as UP. And when she learned about the proposed tuition fee increase (TFI), she cannot help but express her disappointment.


“Bagaman graduate na ako, hindi ko pa rin maalis sa aking sarili na hindi maiinis sa nangyayari sa unibersidad,” (Even though I’m already a graduate, I can’t help but be disgusted with what is happening in the university) shared Daisy Mae Soan, 21, an alumna of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Manila, in an interview with Bulatlat.

Daisy graduated from the university only last April, after struggling for four years juggling odd jobs and academic duties. Her story is a depiction of the hardships of students who can barely pay their stay in college, even in a state university such as UP. And when she learned about the proposed tuition fee increase (TFI), she cannot help but express her disappointment.

STFAP recipient

Throughout her stay in the university, Daisy stands as the breadwinner of her family. With the help of several scholarships and part-time work alongside her Socialized Tuition Fee Assistance Program (STFAP), she was able to support both herself and her family, particularly her younger siblings to continue their education.

The STFAP is primarily implemented not just as a system of grouping UP students according to their family’s annual income, but also to give assistance in the form of tuition fee discounts and allowances to the impoverished members of the student body. Daisy was a recipient from her freshman year until she finished her degree. She started in Bracket 7, receiving a 50-percent reduction in her tuition fee. Her incessant appeal to the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) to be included in Bracket 1 may not have been successful, but it bore some fruits. Eventually she was re-bracketed to Bracket 6 then to Bracket 4 where she did not have to pay her tuition anymore and where she regularly received P800 ($16.05 at an exchange rate of $1=P49.82) as stipend and book allowance.    

But the process is tedious. Daisy shared that to be able to be classified into Bracket 4, she had to write one to two letters of appeal to the OSA. From the OSA, the appeals would be passed over to UP Diliman because that is where the applications are screened. This can take anywhere from 4 to 8 months. And if one’s appeal is approved, then it will be another 1 to 2 months of waiting to process the voucher and check. By the time that the student can claim the money, the enrollment period is already over. So even with the STFAP, they have to scourge for money to pay their tuition fee. The tuition they have paid months ago would just be refunded to them. “Napakalaking problema nito dahil saan naman kukuha ng pera ang mga estudyanteng katulad ko,” (Finding the money to pay for the tuition poses a big problem for students in the same state like I am.) Daisy laments.

If the processing of one’s application is taxing, the application procedures are worse. The list of requirements is endless, ranging from one’s electric bill to the Certificate of Tax Exemption of one’s parents. “Halos lahat na lang ng papeles to prove lang na mahirap ka at walang ari-arian ang family mo,” (Almost every document to prove that you are poor and have no properties whatsoever are asked from you),” Daisy quipped. This is also the reason some of her classmates opted not to avail of the STFAP, though they are qualified for such aid. She said it is a “hassle,” citing the long period of wait for the results even though there is no assurance that one’s application will be approved.  

The De Dios Committee, which was tasked to review tuition and fee increases, gave conflicting data on the number of students who avail of the STFAP, which they estimated to be either 5 percent or 10 percent of the student population. Nevertheless, the numbers are still small. And this can be an indication that the stringent procedures are meant to discourage the students rather than to serve as a safety measure, and that the 5 percent or 10 percent who avail of it are just a fraction of those who really need the help.       

Disappointed alumna

When asked by Bulatlat if she supports the latest UP administration-backed effort to increase the tuition and miscellaneous fee, her answer is a vehement disagreement. “Kung tutuusin, ang P4500- P6000 ($90.32-$102.43 at an exchange rate of $1=P49.82) na tuition per semester ay hindi na biro para sa amin na walang pera; napakahirap nang makahagilap ng ganyan kalaking amount, what more pa kaya if tataasan nila ang tuition?” (The P4500-P6000 tuition per semester is already very difficult for us who do not have any money; it is so hard to scourge for an amount that big, what more if they will raise the tuition?) she explained.

And it is Daisy’s parting words that can prove the De Dios Committee wrong in its “divide and rule” strategy of pitting one sector against another, with the alumni being set against the present students, hinting that such matters do not concern them. After all, they have already left the UP, during the time when it is being true to its claim of being the state university.

Ang sentimyento ko bilang isang alumnus ay sana, huwag nang ituloy ang tuition fee increase. Sa halip, bakit hindi na lang taasan ng gobyerno ang budget nito para sa UP at hindi kung saan-saan ibinibigay ang pera ng mamamayan? Kung matuloy man ito, hindi na maaring tawaging ‘iskolar ng bayan’ ang mga estudyante ng UP.  Matatawag pa bang iskolar ang isang estudyante na napakataas naman ang binabayad sa tuition? Kung tutuusin, mataas na nga ang tution ng UP compared sa ibang state Us.  Ang natataong pagtataas ng tuition sa UP ay naghihikayat lang sa mga mahihirap na estudyante na huwag na lang mag-aral o lumipat na lang sa ibang state u.  Sayang talaga” (My sentiment as an alumnus is that there should be no tuition fee increase. Why doesn’t the government increase the budget of UP instead of allocating the people’s money on unimportant matters? If this will push through, then the students of UP can no longer be called ‘iskolar ng bayan’ (people’s scholars). Can you call someone a scholar if s/he has to pay such a high tuition? As it is, the tuition of UP is relatively higher compared to other state universities. The impending increase of the tuition in UP only encourages poor students to simply stop studying or transfer to another state university. What a waste), she said with a tone of disappointment.

And it is not a far-fetched notion to speculate that Daisy is not alone in having the same sentiments on the proposed TFI. After all is said and done, UP’s alumni do still care. Bulatlat


© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Media Center

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