This February, students from different colleges and universities are again facing threats of tuition and other fee increases.
As enshrined in Article IV, Sec. 5 of our Constitution, education is a basic right of every Filipino Youth. In reality, however, only 22 million out of the 40 million youth of school age are studying. It is because diplomas now come with a price tag that goes higher every year, a clear manifestation of the commercialization of the Philippine education, a characteristic that this government fails to resolve.
In fact, a majority of schools in Baguio and the province of Benguet already announced to the public their proposed tuition increase for the coming academic school year. Saint Louis University (SLU) disclosed its plan to increase its tuition and miscellaneous fees by six percent. University of the Cordilleras (UC) plans to increase their tuition by six percent and other fees by 4% to 149%. Baguio Central University (BCU) revealed its intention to increase the tuition of incoming first year students by 10% and the tuition of second to fourth year students by 5%.
The Pedagogy of the Oppressed
The annual increase of tuition has been legalized by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) Memorandum Order 14. The CMO 14 explicitly states that schools are allowed to increase tuition without prior consultation if it is within the prevailing inflation rate and if the increase is applicable only to incoming freshmen, a provision that blatantly undermines the rights of the students and their parents to question or quash the unjust tuition increase. Moreover, the CMO 14 legitimized the collection of exorbitant miscellaneous fees without proper guidelines on the nature of the fees allowable to be collected.
Last year, CHEd approved around 395 tuition increases in schools nationwide. One hundred ninety four of the approved tuition increases were above the inflation rate while 201 of the tuition increases were at par or lower than the inflation rate.
This appalling phenomenon pushed inter-school student organizations such as the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) and Kabataan Partylist to demand for the scrapping of the CMO 14. The House Committee on Technical and Higher Education, of which Rep. Teddy Casiño and Rep. Liza Maza are members of, declared the CMO 14 illegal because it violated Section 10 of Republic Act 6728, which states that schools must hold proper consultations prior to implementing tuition and other fee increases.
On May 8, 2006, a CHEd resolution invalidated tuition and other fee increases above the national inflation rate. This was the basis of schools with increases above inflation rate to give partial refunds. On September 2006, CHEd called for a meeting of the Technical Committee for the Amendment of CMO 14. Section 8 of CMA 14 was amended. Section 10 of CMO 14, the provision that provided for the exemptions to consultations, was also deleted.
Section 8 of CMO 14 was amended as follows:
“Section 8. Tuition and Other Fees. The allowable increase in tuition and other fees in all levels should not be more than the prevailing national inflation rate. Any increases in tuition and other fees in all levels to be made by private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) shall be subject to consultation with stakeholders, in accordance with the processes set forth in this Order, and approval of the Commission on Higher Education through the CHEd Regional Offices.” (CMO 42 s.2006 section 1)
Books Not Bullets
The senate did not approve the proposed National Budget for 2006 and instead re-enacted the National Budget for 2005 through Malacañang’s maneuvering saying that the funds will be redirected to the president’s programs. The re-enactment of the national budget meant that the government would allot lower subsidy to education. According to the Congress’ Appropriations Committee, out of the P46.4 billion supplemental fund, P14.8 billion went to the Internal Revenue Allotment of Local Government Units. Thirty percent went to the military, notwithstanding the fact that Arroyo already allotted P1 billion to the AFP in its mission to quell communist insurgency; and a mere P9.5 billion went to education resulting to budget cuts in State Colleges and Universities (SCUs).
The budget cuts on SCUs reflect the Arroyo regime’s disregard of the youth’s welfare. It exposed the insecure regime’s true colors, favoring its roaming killers over the so-called hope of the nation. Indeed, Arroyo’s “all-out war against terror” is indiscriminate for it has even targeted members of legitimate people’s organizations, journalists and students.
The intensified budget cuts and consequent skyrocketing of tuition and other fees in SUCs has beat the drums for Malacañang and its appointees at CHEd to pave way for call centers inside SUCs. Brandishing ear-candy catchphrases such as “globalized curriculum”, “ready manpower” and “employment for new graduates”, the incumbent regime is shameless in bartering its youth like any other commodity in the global market.
Stand up for your rights
Through fearless mass actions spearheaded by pro-youth organizations such as the NUSP and KABATAAN Partylist, the Filipino students gained initial victories. University of Sto. Tomas (UST), University of the East-Manila (UE-Manila), University of the East-Caloocan (UE-Caloocan) and De La Salle Araneta University filed complaints to CHED because the tuition increases were above the inflation rate. SLU students of Baguio meanwhile filed a complaint at the Regional Trial Court against SLU’s “carry-over scheme”. Student leaders in Davao City successfully gathered signatures from students in different private schools and jointly lodged a complaint at CHEdRO-Davao.
The initial victories and developments we have achieved must be utilized to further the cause of the youth and restrain the surfacing of tuition and other fee increases next school year. We have to continue to campaign for the full REFUND of illegal tuition and other fee increases in the present academic year. Schools must not venture to another round of tuition and other fee increases because their previous increases are still under question.
We must bear in mind at all times that education is a basic right of the youth and that it is vital to the development of society especially so if the incumbent administration is geared towards nationwide progress and genuine social transformation. As we can see, the Arroyo government’s outright neglect of the youth sector resulted to the inaccessibility and decline of the quality of education.
We must not tolerate the unapologetic trampling of our rights any further, more so if we believe that we the youth is the hope of the nation. We are obliged to ensure a bright future for the Filipino people; therefore, we have to assert what is due us through sustained collective actions.
REFUND ILLEGAL TUITION AND OTHER FEE INCREASES, NOW!
JUNK CHED MEMORANDUM 14!
FIGHT FOR HIGHER STATE SUBSIDY FOR EDUCATION!
STOP THE COMMERCIALIZATION OF EDUCATION! #
Kristoffer John Panem
National Union of Students of the Philippines Baguio-Benguet