By OLGA LAUZON
BAGUIO CITY – Different youth and students organizations trooped at the Malcolm People’s Park last May 12, to express their disappointment with the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the P8.3B tuition policy drafted by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
Free tuition policy
The P8.3 billion budget realignment for education was celebrated by stakeholders after its announcement last December 2016. But concerns have been raised when President Rodrigo Duterte placed a conditional clause in the policy stating that priority should still be given to “financially disadvantaged but academically able students”.
Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Elago said that the conditional clause is open to misinterpretation, and CHEd and DBM may end up crafting a policy that would limit the coverage of free tuition, defeating its purpose.
Students here are now enraged over the IRR as it is far from the blanket implementation that many have hoped for. It reportedly directs to a nationwide implementation of a tuition bracketing system. Moreover, it prioritizes beneficiaries of current nationally-funded student financial assistance programs (StuFAPs), graduating students, those under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program and those under the Listahan 2.0 program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Those not covered by the aforementioned will be ranked according to their economic capacity.
Furthermore, the IRR reads that “existing enrolment procedures of State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) shall largely be observed. However, the SUCs should inform the students at the earliest possible time whether they qualify for the tuition subsidy or not, and try to provide the best options for those who cannot be accommodated by any government financial assistance program.”
Luke Bagangan of Anakbayan-Cordillera accused CHEd of catering to the business interests of private schools, contrary to their mandate of ensuring that Filipinos enjoy their right to education. He said that if SUCs are free and accessible, private institutions will be forced to lower their fees.
Last year, CHEd was reportedly worried of a “possible exodus of students from private to public institutions” if the government would fully subsidize SUCs.
“If the state institutions will be totally free, it might mean that there will be an exodus from private higher education to public so ano na ang mangyayari sa private institutions?” said Patricia Licuanan, CHEd Chairperson.
Bagangan added that the urgency of free tuition should be realized as it will allow students to dream beyond from being commodities of the labor market. He also said that it will give justice to the taxes of toiling parents who work and dream for their children.
College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) member Quimberlyn Ranchez said that while there are efforts in Congress to institutionalize free education, the bills that are at works dilute the essence of free education. These bills, such as the Free Higher Education for All Act, Affordable and Free Higher Education Act, plan to maintain and expand scholarship and loan programs, bracketing systems and restrictive requirements and entitlement to free education.
Julie Doroja of Kabataan Partylist calls for youth and students to continue on asserting their rights and for the government to heed to its constitutional mandate, realign their loyalties to its constituents and stop facilitating neoliberal attacks to education on all fronts. # nordis.net