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OSR Position Paper on the Socialized Tuition Scheme of 2013

OSR Position Paper on the Socialized Tuition Scheme of 2013

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Published by Krista Melgarejo
Position Paper of the OSR on the proposed Socialized Tuition Scheme of 2013 presented on the 1294th Board of Regents Meeting last December 13, 2013.
Position Paper of the OSR on the proposed Socialized Tuition Scheme of 2013 presented on the 1294th Board of Regents Meeting last December 13, 2013.

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Published by: Krista Melgarejo on Dec 16, 2013
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 Position Paper On the Proposed 2013 Socialized Tuition System (STS 2013) and the UP System Code Amendments
The sudden demise of Kristel Tejada on March 15, 2013 added fuel to the already fiery debate on the accessibility of UP education. Now, the Office of the Student Regent (OSR) is firm in its determination to prevent any similar tragedy, by asserting a principle which, had it been upheld, would likely have made a great difference in
the final months of Kristel’s life: education is a right, and any UP rules which unjustly limit that right must be
rejected. Since its implementation in 1989, followed by periodical reforms in subsequent years, the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) has caused skyrocketing tuition rates in the University: from PhP40 per unit to the current default rate of PhP 1,500 per unit. In effect, this has led to a steady increase in the number of appeals for late payment and loan application. Recently, the procedural roadblocks brought upon by UP System Code articles 330, 430, and 431 have been thrust into the spotlight. Because of these provisions
 which bar otherwise qualified students from enrolling or taking final examinations due to financial incapacity
 more and more students are forced to take a Leave of Absence (LOA) due to their unpaid matriculation and/or student loans. It is in this light that the OSR would like to put forward its position on the proposed STS 2013 and the amendments to the UP System Code. This position is reinforced by the lessons collated from previous reviews and consultations since the term of Former Student Regent James Mark Terry Ridon, immediately after the railroaded approval of the Tuition Fee Increase in 2006.
On the Proposed Socialized Tuition System 2013
Upon reviewing the proposal, and after a series of student consultations, the Office would like to put forward the following comments:
The ideology behind the socialized tuition policy is detrimental for the students and for a state university.
From the very beginning, the OSR has been critical of the ideology behind the so-called
 scheme. Having students pay for their tuition based on their perceived capacity to pay reflects a skewed logic, subjecting UP education to the whims of market forces, and treating UP as a private enterprise rather than a public service institution.
The stratification of students based on their income has only given the administration justification for stratifying students based on income. The suppo
sed promotion of “fairness and social justice” has led
to more than half of the student population paying a tuition rate of P1,000 per unit, while a staggering 25% pay the rate of P1,500 per unit.
Some would argue that students are now rich enough to pay the said costs. But recent data from the Office of Scholarships and Student Services (OSSS) reveal that there were
5,391 students who applied for student loans in UP Diliman alone
. Last semester, 1,218 students were not able to pay their loans before the release of grades (
Philippine Collegian, Issue #16; 13 November 2013
). Regardless of the financial capacity of wealthy students, these numbers suggest that the STFAP, and the high cost of tuition, is actually harming instead of helping the most vulnerable sector of the student body: the financially challenged students.
The national tuition rate for higher educational institutions (alongside private schools) based on the 2012-2013 data from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is only P475.47 per unit.
 UP education, on the other hand,
costs more than double this average rate.
This already puts UP’s supposed public
character into question
 if the tuition rate is more than what private institutions charge and beyond the price the masses could afford, can we still say that we are promoting a more accessible education that is based on social justice and fairness? In practice, the concept of a socialized tuition is proven to be nothing but a mask to hide and justify
decision to squeeze money out of its students instead of the government. UP has betrayed its mandate
as the country’s premier tertiary state
institution, and is trying to use a twisted concept of social justice to charge students for
education that should be free and accessible for all, regardless of financial capacity.
The tools that will be used to collect the socio-economic data and income
of the applicant’s family are
 overtly simplified under the STFAP, to the point of indifference to their actual economic situation.
 By including pension and other financial assistance received, alongside the entire income of the household (not just the parents), the 30% adjustment of the income cut-offs will be rendered nullified and almost negligible. The said adjustments only serve one purpose
 that is, to make the reforms palatable while not actually changing (and actually oversimplifying) the bases for the bracket classification. The data-gathering tools presented (MORES 1SEC and the Instrument to Collect Income Data on
Applicant’s Household)
are not sensitive enough
to the real plight of the applicant’s family. These tools
only collect the sources of income and not how they are spent or if they are actually enough for the
family’s expenditures.
This further highlights the aforementioned skewed logic behind the STFAP and STS 2013: that students are actually classified to check how much payment can be squeezed from them; and not for the administration to find out which students deserve free/lower tuition.
Figure 1: Proposed Instrument to Collect Income Data on Applicant’s Household
The procedural improvements benefit the implementers, not the students.
 The improved STFAP/STS 2013 application forms are streamlining the overtly bureaucratic application process. But it does not mean that applicants will benefit fully from this. They might not be required to send other supporting documents, but it does not mean that their plight will be lessened. The simplistic forms actually constrict dynamic and flexible decision-making in assigning
the brackets on the administration’s part. The black and white result brought by the fo
rms does not mean that the applicants will get their desired and actual bracket. The MORES 1SEC form for example, is just a shortened version of what the students have been answering for their STFAP application. Based on our consultation with some students who have tried

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