By National Union of Students of the Philippines
March 1, 2018
QUEZON CITY – This student union seeks to respond to the report of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) that the free tuition program is already in full implementation across the country.
The National Union of Students of the Philippines, the country’s broadest alliance of student councils, considers the CHED release of a status report on the free tuition program as the defense mechanism of the government to cover up the messy implementation of free tuition.
The Duterte administration has been very proud of this program and even uses free tuition to stop students from voicing out their opinions on government policies. However, clamor from students all over the country pressed CHED to finally admit the lapses of the program.
Thousands still paid tuition and other school fees
According to CHED, around 900,000 students did not pay tuition for the first semester of Academic Year (AY) 2017-2018. Unfortunately, with around 1.2 million undergraduate enrollees in state universities and colleges (SUCs) as of June 2017, CHED indirectly admits that as much as 300,000 students still paid tuition despite the availability of enough funds to cover the tuition of all undergraduate students.
Furthermore, CHED failed to block the attempts of several SUCs to still collect tuition and other school fees as a result of the late disbursement of funds by CHED to SUCs. Among those schools is the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, where miscellaneous fees amounting 2,000 to 4,000 pesos are still collected from students. In addition, first year students were still charged tuition fees despite the existing free tuition program.
The Union also gathered reports that some students in University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman were forced to opt out of the policy and had to pay tuition even though they were qualified for free tuition. To augment their resources, colleges in UP Diliman devised income-generating schemes such as the imposition of new or higher fees on the use of classrooms, halls and public spaces.
These unfortunate incidents are results of the lapses of CHED. It announced that it has already disbursed to almost all of the SUCs their share of the free tuition funds as of February 2018. The agency seems to be proud of this. As a matter of fact, CHED released the funds several months late! As stated in the Implementing Rules and Regulations for the free tuition policy, CHED must have disbursed the funds in July 2017 for schools that held their first semester enrollment period in June.
Delaying tactics through IRR
The provision of free education in SUCs is long overdue, thanks to CHED for the delays in coming up with the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of RA 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act. CHED is spoiling the intended objectives of free education by further tampering the IRR to give room for the interest of private school owners for profits.
CHED shares the phobia of private school owners on the huge possibility of an exodus of students from private schools due to this law. To accommodate their desires, CHED willingly creates another wave of headaches as it implements free education. The planned voucher system for college students and the student loan program will simply ensure the private sector’s share of students’ and public funds.
Students, senate press CHED
Filipino students stand united with the Philippine Senate in pressing the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to provide free college education by ensuring that collection of fees are terminated immediately.
Around seventy (70) student regents, trustees, council officers and leaders from universities all over the country signed a statement demanding that CHED must end to the collection of tuition and other school fees in SUCs, and ensure the refund of all fees paid by students when they enrolled for the second semester of this academic year. Meanwhile, the Senate passed a resolution signed by all senators, pushing CHED to swiftly implement RA 10931.
NUSP will stage protests to oppose the collection of fees in SUCs as well as the planned increase in fees in private universities.