Primer on the on the 300% Increase on Tuition in the Cordillera

With the rising prices of basic commodities, the last thing the students need is another burden to shoulder that could ultimately force them to end their pursuit of a quality education.

In the Cordillera, there are only seven state universities and colleges (SUCs), providing education at relatively cheaper prices compared to its private counterparts where there are thirty-one in the region. However, due to the education policies of the past administrations, such as the Long Term Higher Education Plan and Higher Education Modernization Act of Arroyo which aimed to reduce the number of SUCs in the country and made them more “self-sufficient” by boosting their income-generating projects and tapping idle assets, the conditions faced by SUCs in the country force them to look for alternatives in order to sustain operation. Unfortunately for everyone who dreams of finishing higher education, one of the principal means by which school administrators cover up for the lack of national subsidy is the increasing of tuition and other fees. For instance, the total revenues from student fees steeply increased from 1.1 million in 2000, or 6.6% of the total school budget to more than 7 million I 2010 or 20.2% of the total school budget.

The most recent case among the SUCs in the Cordillera happened last 2007 in the University of the Philippines Baguio which is part of a system-wide policy approved by its Board of Regents. For main campuses such as UP Diliman, Manila and Los Baños, the tuition fee per unit escalated from 300 to 1000 per unit. For regional campuses such as UP Baguio, Visayas and Mindanao, the tuition rose from 200 to 600 per unit. For the other SUCs in the region, school administrators take the easier route towards collecting more fees from the students by creating new or increasing miscellaneous fees.

However, late last year, in a meeting called by Edward Bagtang, President of Cordillera Administrative Region Association of State Universities and Colleges (CARASUC) and attended by the presidents of the six SUCs in the Cordillera and Budget Secretary Butch Abad, they came up with a proposal that seeks to raise the tuition rate per unit in Cordillera SUCs to 300/unit after a certain period of time. Also, specialized courses like Tourism, Nursing and Hotel and Restaurant Management will undergo different tuition increase rates. Another proposal is to come up with a unified Socialized Tuition Fee that aims to cluster students’ tuition rates according to their capacity to pay.

CORDILLERA Higher Educational Institutions (2008)

Private Higher Educational Institutions (PHEI)

State Universities and Colleges (SUC)

Abra 3 1
Apayao 1
Benguet 22 2
Ifugao 1
Kalinga 5 1
Mountain Province 1 1
TOTAL = 38 31 7

Lack of National Subsidy taking its toll

We can see from these proposals the desperation of the measures forwarded by the school administrators in order to save the deteriorating quality of education in SUCs in the region and to address the lack of subsidy that should be provided for them by the national government.

In their meeting last year, the school administrators under CARASUC admitted themselves the immense 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.”

This statement only evinces that the school administrators of Cordillera SUCs recognize the problem posed on them by the lessening education budget provided by the national government. However, instead of uniting and calling for a higher education subsidy from the government, the school administrators resort to imposing tuition and other fees increase whose effect will mainly be felt by the students and their parents.

 

Pondo para sa MOOE

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Difference between 2010 and 2011

Difference between 2009 and 2011

Difference between 2008 and 2011

Difference between 2007 and 2011

Cordillera Administrative Region

63,754

82,351

113,099

114,576

79,765

-30.38%

-29.47%

-3.14%

25.11%

Abra State Institute of Science & Technology

6,048

6,865

13,579

12,621

7,759

-38.52%

-42.86%

13.02%

28.29%

Apayao State College

4,679

5,633

5,633

5,170

3,753

-27.41%

-33.37%

-33.37%

-19.79%

Benguet State University

27,214

30,868

37,580

41,085

32,477

-20.95%

-13.58%

5.21%

19.34%

Ifugao State University

8,513

19,422

21,666

23,730

13,257

-44.13%

-38.81%

-31.74%

55.73%

Kalinga-Apayao State College

6,313

8,253

15,877

13,989

7,236

-48.27%

-54.42%

-12.32%

14.62%

Mountain Province State Polytechnic College

10,987

11,310

18,764

17,981

15,283

-15.00%

-18.55%

35.13%

39.10%

Table 1: Pondo para sa MOOE ng SUCs sa CAR

 

 

UP as model for experiment

As mentioned above, the University of the Philippines suffered from a similar incident almost five years ago, when the tuition fees rose by a dramatic 300%. Simultaneous to the implementation of the huge 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, raising doubts on whether the STFAP can still be implemented as it is billed to be.

We can argue that this recent proposal from the CARASUC is roughly inspired, if not completely based on the tuition fee increase on UP last 2007. It is at this point that we should bring up the impact of the said TOFI in UP. Another setback on UP’s STFAP scheme is that students who fail to produce the said necessary documents like the income tax returns will automatically fall into a default bracket A, which will pay the highest tuition rate.

CARASUC Proposal: Or, on who will carry the heftiest burden?

From the proposal of CARASUC, it is easy to see who will most greatly be affected by the school administrator’s proposal: the students.

Starting school year 2012-13, all SUCs in the Cordillera aside from UP Baguio will have a tuition rate of 100/unit which will increase 20% every year thereafter until the rate becomes 300/unit. So for instance, if the tuition rates become 100/unit starting next school year, it will become 120/unit the next year, 144/unit the year after that until it becomes 298/unit on school year 2019-2020.  At this point, the school is expected to have an additional revenue of more than P8,000 per student who is taking up an average of 27 units of load.

Evidently, this scheme mainly relies on the students in generating funds for the university. Needless to say, this can result to a lower enrollment turnout as students who can afford the new, higher rates would decline.

As if responding right away to the point of this argument, the CARASUC adds the unified socialized tuition fee proposal which, as stated in the minutes of the meeting, “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 purports to base the tuition fee to be paid by a student on his family’s economic and social status, with an elaborate process needed to be undergone to determine this status.

As it is patterned after the STFAP mechanism at work in UP, this proposal can also be criticized by the same remarks thrown at 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. 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.

Greater Dilemma on Private Schools

In the private schools, the situation is no different, perhaps even worse given their nature and certain provisions in national policies that subtly promote the increasing of tuition, however unjustified. The Education Act of 1982 deregulates the tuition increases and from a deeper reading can be said to protect the discretion of school administrators to raise tuition rates anytime.

Among the private tertiary schools in the Cordillera, most of which are located in Baguio City, the touted educational hub of the North, increases in tuition and miscellaneous fees were rampant in the recent years. For SY 2012-2013, the Divine Word College of Abra proposed a 25% increase on tuition, King’s College of the Philippines proposed 10% increase in tuition, and Saint Louis University proposed a 5%-10% miscellaneous fee increase to be implemented on the incoming first years.

What is notable in the case of private schools is that while tuition increases may not happen annually, school administrators put the toll on miscellaneous fees and those who are affected are incoming first years so they won’t have to conduct a consultation anymore. This is wise and strategic since according to the guidelines stipulated in the Memorandum 13 Series of 1998 by the Commission of Higher Education, only proposed increases in tuition fee can be consulted from the students, making the approval of proposed increases on other fees effortless on the part of administrators.

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