By CHRISTIAN PATRICIO and DIVINE LORAINE PEÑAFLOR
BAGUIO CITY — The UP Baguio University Student Council and other progressive organizations led the local protest, last August 3, against the resumption of tuition fees collection in the university.
The fight for free education is still far from over, they said as the news for the resumption of the collection of tuition fees reached the students of University of the Philippines (UP), various forms of protest were staged in all units of UP.
Last midyear term in UP, because of the non-stop student mobilizations for free education, UP Diliman chancellor Michael Tan announced an immediate suspension of tuition collections for this upcoming semester. Some UP chancellors, including Baguio, complied with the suspension because of the confusion on the implementation of the Free Tuition Policy in the university.
However, on the last day of enrolment, students of UP Baguio were taken aback when the current UP President Danilo Concepcion sent the full guidelines on the payment for tuition this semester. The guidelines included the order to lift the suspension, and the tuition collection after a 2-step assessment before August 25.
“Nakakalungkot na nawala na yung free tuition. Akala kasi namin wala na talagang babayaran. Hindi ko tuloy alam kung paano ko i-eexplain sa magulang ko na may babayaran kami, e ang nabalitaan niya ay wala na dapat,” said Jocelyn Huidem, a student from UP Baguio.
Meanwhile, the students still can avail of the usual socialized tuition system (STS) which the students have however found wanting. UPB USC Vice Chairperson Paul Soriano described as, “Maraming mga estudyante, lalo na rito sa UP Baguio, na nakatanggap ng mas matataas na STS bracket compared sa kanilang mga family annual income. Makikita rin na hindi talaga fair at walang malinaw na basis ang pagbibigay ng bracket sa mga estudyante dahil kahit ang ilang magkakapatid na pareho ang family income ay magkaiba ang bracket,” said Soriano.
League of Filipino Students-Metro Baguio Vice Chairperson Alyssa Mamuyac said that the resumption of collection of tuition fees and the giving of STS brackets to the students are nothing but acts to gain profit.
“This ultimately is a manifestation of the worsening crisis in our educational system. So it is all the more the task of the students to collectively call and demand free and quality education that includes the abolition of tuition and other fees collection,” said Mamuyac.
Last Wednesday, the UPB USC held a dialogue with UPB Chancellor Raymundo Rovillos regarding student concerns including the call for free education. Rovillos expressed his support for the campaign. But, the students remained enraged by the thought of the resumed tuition fee collection.
Earlier, UP Baguio chancellor Raymundo Rovillos announced on July 29 that the assessment and collection of fees for all undergraduate students for the 1st semester of academic year 2017-2018 is temporarily suspended until further notice following the same announcements from other UP units.
UPB Scholarship Affairs Officer Grace Tovera said that the collection of fees is suspended because the assessment of the applications for the Free Tuition Policy (FTP) through the Student Financial Assistance (SFA) Online is not yet completed. She said that the assessment of tuition for each student will resume once the results of the FTP is released. She added that the FTP is a program of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) and that UP is just following the guidelines and assisting in choosing qualified students.
According to CHEd guidelines, FTP applicants must present documentary proof that they come from poor families. The same guidelines stated that beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer or the Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program (4Ps) are top priority.
However, the implementation of the FTP through the SFA online of UP Baguio caused confusion among the students. Some students were not aware of the FTP implementation and the requirements for the application. As a result, many were not able to apply.
UP Baguio had to extend the deadline three times to accommodate the students. From the original July 7 deadline, it was moved to July 12, to July 16 and then finally to July 21.
According to UPB University Student Council chairperson Ned Tuguinay, this pronouncement from chancellor Rovillos is a result of the students’ collective action for a free and accessible education. He said that this is a good start to further the students’ campaign for free education.
Tuguinay also called on the students to continue to demand for a free and nationalist education.
On August 4, President Rodrigo Duterte officially signed the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Act into a law. Progressive groups, however, said that the they will wait for the implementing rules and regulations before releasing a stand. # nordis.net