Majority of University of the Philippines (UP) students will still be asked to pay matriculation fees despite the Rodrigo Duterte government’s announcement of an additional P8.3 billion funding to make tuition free in state universities and colleges (SUCs) next school year.
This is according to CHED and the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) April 20 Joint Memorandum setting implementing rules and regulations and prioritizing students who could benefit from the program, UP student leaders said in a dialogue with university officials Friday.
The government’s free tuition policy shall only benefit few SUC students based on their families’ socio-economic status and academic standing, they added.
Last Thursday, UP launched its online Student Financial Assistance (SFA) project to align its policies with the joint memorandum from its P367 allocation.
UP said the SFA shall accept student applications for the free tuition program which shall then match the students’ financial needs with multiple financial support and packages into a so-called comprehensive financial support for applicants.
Under the program, students may apply for the Free Tuition Policy (FTP) where recipients of Student Financial Assistance Programs (STFAP) and beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) are prioritized,
Students deemed unqualified under the FTP may apply for the Socialized Tuition System (STS), a bracket-based tuition system that measures a student’s capacity to pay based on socioeconomic factors.
UP Student Regent Raoul Manuel slammed the scheme, saying it is “diametrically opposed to and contrary to the spirit of making tuition free for all.”
Manuel questioned the huge profit the university has collected from students from tuition and other school fees, saying the university under-declared its actual tuition collection of around P900-million, excluding income from other school charges.
He said the cash balance of the university has ballooned from P5.5-billion in 1999 to P12-billion by 2015 kept as part of the university’s revolving fund.
“With such a huge amount in the coffers of UP, we find no justification for the continued collection of fees except for the extraction of further profits from the students,” Manuel said.
Concepcion for his part said the university’s incomes are bound by legal processes.
“Ang pera na yan, earmarked, [at] naka-indicate kung paano gagastusin,” Concepcion explained.
Concepcion said the SFA aims to capture data in case President Rodrigo Duterte vetoes the Affordable Higher Education for All Act, which aims to provide full tuition subsidy for students in state universities and colleges (SUCs).
“Gusto naming makita kung sino yung magqu-qualify para mai-budget na natin yung perang hawak natin,” Concepcion said.
SFA also includes various financial aid, including donor-funded grants and presidential scholarships, he said.
According to Concepcion, scholarships and grants automatically becomes stipend for recipients once Duterte signs the bill.
He added that the university will ask for a supplemental budget from the government to cover other school fees since the allotted budget for UP only covers tuition.
“Pangako ko naman sa inyo na hahanap tayo ng paraan,” Concepcion said. “’Di niyo ako kalaban dito. I will do all my best to make education free,” he added.
The student-administration dialogue coincided with the National Day of Walkout, where students gathered outside Quezon Hall in UP Diliman to commemorate Duterte’s first year in office and call for the end of tuition collection.
Genuine free education
Despite the administration’s promises, however, the students vowed to stay critical and to strengthen their call for free education.
The students also denounced the real nature of the Rodrigo Duterte government’s so-called free tuition program in only select SUCs and courses around the country.
“Ang malinaw ay hindi tiyak na magkakaroon ng libreng edukasyon sa kanya,” Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP) Chairperson Almira Abril said.
“Ngayon kailangan nating pag-igtingin ang ating mga panawagan, dahil ang magbibigay sa atin ng libreng edukasyon ay yung social pressure na kayang i-create ng malalaking pagkilos na ikakasa ng kabataan,” she added. # (Denver del Rosario of UP-CMC for Kodao Productions / Featured photo by Gabby Endona)