By NUSP-BB (PR)
BAGUIO CITY — Several youth and student groups converged at a rally at People’s Park, here on May 12 to express dismay on the government-released implementing rules and regulation (IRR) on free tuition, saying students have no guarantees to enjoy free matriculation for the ensuing year.
Students feared the IRR will hinder students from accessing free tuition as it demands “stringent” processes and requirements as claimed by organizers.
The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) Baguio-Benguet, one of the spearheads of the demonstration, claimed the IRR to be discriminatory as it sets prioritization among student beneficiaries in accessing financial support.
NUSP questioned such rule as it opposed the early pronouncement of the government of providing free tuition for all.
“Earlier, we thought it will be free as what the government had said. Now, it has gotten clear that the government had no intention of making tuition free, at the very least, despite having the necessary budget for that,” said Paul Soriano, Baguio-Benguet spokesperson of NUSP.
It can be noted that Congress earlier realigned an P8.3-billion allocation to cover tuition of students in state universities and colleges (SUCs) during the deliberations on the 2017 budget.
Soriano cited prediction from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) saying that around P7.4 billion is supposed to be accumulated from the tuition collection of the 114 SUCs, assuming that no budget realignment happened.
“While the P8.3 billion additional budget for SUCs is far from the decent budget needed to make public education totally free, the realigned budget can, at least, waive tuition fees,” said Soriano.
As noted in the IRR, priority students include beneficiaries of Student Financial Assistance Programs (StuFAPs), graduating students, and beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilya Program or 4Ps. All other students will be given less priority.
Soriano stressed that less priority students will have scant chances of having their tuition waived or discounted if allotted funds for schools run out.
Another salient point of the IRR is ranking of students based on income brackets, through which, tuition discounts will be determined.
“The government wanted to make people believe that financial assistance is based on the students’ ability to pay. This, however, is just a concealment for the government to limit financial support to students,” added Soriano.
The student leader cited that the same bracketing system in the University of the Philippines (UP) have raised the tuition from P40 per unit in 1989 to the present default tuition rate of P1000 to P1500 per unit.
Data from NUSP also revealed that UP Baguio recorded the highest tuition rates among universities and colleges in the region at P1000 per unit.
“As if UP is a private school, its tuition even far exceeds private schools like Saint Louis University, University of Baguio, and University of Cordilleras with tuition rates of around P450 to P550 per unit,” said Soriano.
The group further warned that replicating the said income bracketing system in a nationwide scale will lead to increases in tuition as what happened in UP.
“The formula to justify tuition increase is simple. First, the government implement stringent requirements for student to prove that they are indeed poor. Next thing we know, universities increase their fees since most students will not be able to fulfill the requirements,” explained Soriano.
Moreover, the group disclosed that around only 6% to 7% of the students in the university are beneficiaries of free tuition.
The IRR is being revised at present after massive protests from the students and is set to be released next week. # nordis.net