Starting next school year, students of State Universities and Colleges in the Cordillera might be needing a thicker wallet if they still wish to continue their studies. That is after the Cordillera Administrative Region Association of State Universities and Colleges (CARASUC) ratified a proposal that would escalate the tuition rate for all SUCs in the region to 100/unit for school year (SY)2012-13 and another 20% every year thereafter until the tuition rate per unit stands on 300/unit on all Cordillera SUCs. This proposal is passed even amidst rising prices of other basic commodities in the nation.
When this proposal takes effect this June in time for the new school year, the tuition rate per unit for all CAR SUCs will be at 100 per unit. This will increase to 120/unit on SY 2013-14, 144/unit on 2014-15, 172.80/unit on 2015-16, 207.36/unit on SY 2016-17, 248.83/unit on SY 2017-18 and finally, 298.59.unit on SY2018-19.
Lack of National Subsidy taking its toll
In their meeting last year, the school administrators under CARASUC admitted themselves the impact of the continuing decline of subsidy from the national government to the operations of SUCs. Quoting the rationale of the proposal as stated in the minutes of the meeting: “It is vision of CAR SUCs to provide quality education to its constituent, however, the realization of this vision is facing a dilemma because of the continuing decrease in the MOOE (Maintenance and Other Operating Expenditures) subsidy and no appropriation for Capital Outlay for SUCs from the national government.”
In the budget allocation for all SUCs this year, the funds for Personal Services (PS) has been decreased by P403.3 million despite the supposed automatic increase in PS for each year, due to the Salary Standardization Law. In the region, there is a minimum 8% cut in the Personal Services. The zero allotment for Capital Outlay (CO) is likewise carried on to this year. The budget for Capital Outlay is supposedly where the funds for the construction of new facilities are obtained. All in all, there has been a 230 million budget cut from the budget of all 112 SUCs in the country for 2012. Among the SUCs in the region, an accumulated P79 million is slashed on their total budget. This trend has been started by Gloria Arroyo during her term and is continued by Aquino’s when he assumes office.
“This trend merely manifests the orientation of education that Aquino has been pursuing. Also, it shows once again that he is no different from the anti-people president he has replaced. Aquino is only continuing Arroyo’s agenda of making SUCs more “self-sufficient” and “less dependent” on the national subsidy as stipulated in policies like the Long-term Higher Education Development Plan and Higher Education Modernization Act. Evidently, these are only their guises for their actual abandoning of their duty to provide quality and affordable education to their constituents. Again we ask, is this how Aquino perceives the “tuwid na daan? If this is so, then we’d rather not join him in his crusade for short-sighted reformism,” Tracy Anne Dumalo, Chair of Anakbayan Cordillera said in an interview.
Another proposal: “socialized” tuition fee
Aside from the increase in tuition fee, another proposal by the CARASUC in their meeting is the Unified Socialized Tuition Fee for CAR SUCs. As stated in the minutes of the meeting, this proposal, “is in line with the principle of social justice and narrowing the economic gap between marginalized individuals and well-to-do individuals in the whole Cordillera region, and nearby regions.” This proposal claims to base the tuition fee to be paid by a student on his family’s economic and social status, with a series of processes needed to be undergone to determine this status. Every enrolling student of any CAR SUC shall be required to submit a copy of their parents’ income tax return (ITR), list of acquired property or fixed assets and a certification from the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
For students whose parents’ annual income is 100,000 and above (Class A), they will need to pay 30% more than the set tuition fee; for students whose parents’ annual income is 50,001-100,000 (Class B), 25% more than the set tuition; and for students whose parents earn below 50,000 annually (Class C), they shall pay the base amount of tuition rate. So for instance, when the base tuition rate per unit is set at 100/unit next school year, Class A students would have to pay 130/unit, Class B, 125/unit and Class C, 100/unit. These rates are to escalate as the base tuition rate per unit also increases 20% every year thereafter.
Patterned after UP?
It can be remembered that last 2007, a 300% tuition increase also hit the University of the Philippines System and from this latest proposal from CARASUC, one can figure out semblances. Simultaneous to the implementation of the tuition increase was the re-bracketing of the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP), first devised on 1989 to adjust the tuition fees paid by UP students according to their family’s income. From the original nine brackets, it was reduced to five in 2007. This raised doubts, especially from among the student leaders, on whether the STFAP can still be implemented as it is billed to be.
As it can be argued that the Unified Socialized Tuition Fee proposed by CARASUC is patterned after the STFAP mechanism at work in UP, this proposal can also be analyzed by the same remarks regarding STFAP.
“To begin with, this measure is not called-for as it only serves as a band-aid solution hiding the actual, more important problem to be addressed: higher tuition rates imposed on students. While it purports to foster “social justice” by asking for a tuition rate based on one’s capacity to pay, the process by which this “justice” can be obtained is already tedious, and not to say, requiring numerous expenses (i.e. for photocopying certain documents) which some families cannot afford. Moreover, as in the case of UP, the existence of a measure like this cannot be guaranteed to work in the favor of the underprivileged students since they can be overlooked due to technicalities in the process. For instance, there is a deadline for submitting the necessary documents for the tuition discount which usually work against the students especially to those who do not have the money to reproduce the required documents easily. Also, there is question in the integrity of the bracketing since there are a lot of reports stating that some students from more well-off families are able to acquire a lower bracket and hence, pay a lower tuition,” Cielo Marie Bayson of National Union of Students of the Philippines Baguio-Benguet said. “Even with disregarding these glitches, we must return to the more vital point undermining the merits of a socialized tuition scheme – this scheme shall not be devised at the first place if tuition rates are kept at a low level and farther, if only the national government allots more budget for education and prevent the need for school administrators to look for other means to generate funds for its operations,” she concluded.
Call for Higher State Subsidy remains
In line with this issue, different youth organizations in the Cordillera like Kabataan Partylist, ANAKBAYAN, College Editor’s Guild of the Philippines and National Union of Students of the Philippines conducted a Cordillera Youth Leaders Assembly last February 11 and 12 at Bengao, Baguio City where they invited student leaders from all over the region to discuss the education crisis and the actions they can take regarding this. In the assembly, the participants came up with a unity declaration addressed to the President of the Philippines, the Senate and the Congress condemning the budget cuts and calling to rechannel funds allocated for debt servicing and military expenditures to the budget for education, health and other social services. Twenty participants from the provinces of Kalinga, Mountain Province, Abra and Benguet participated in this youth leaders’ assembly.