NUSP Statement on free education

Opinion & Analysis Philippines Apr 28, 2017 at 3:03 pm
Students from the University of the Philippines campus in Manila stage a walkout in February to call for free education for all.  (EDD GUMBAN, file/Philstar)

Students from the University of the Philippines campus in Manila stage a walkout in February to call for free education for all.
(EDD GUMBAN, file/Philstar)

Last year, Filipino students nationwide welcomed the introduction of free tuition in all state universities and colleges (SUCs) for academic year 2017-2018. Because of the student movement’s clamor for free public education at all levels, the Congress granted the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) an additional budget of P8.3 billion to fund all 114 SUCs in lieu of collecting tuition from 1.4 million students.

The special provision on tuition collection in the 2017 General Appropriations Act clearly states that no tuition shall be collected from all SUC undergraduate students in School Year 2017-2018. However, President Rodrigo Duterte placed the said provision under conditional implementation saying that financially disadvantaged but academically able students must be prioritized.

After five months, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and CHED issued the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the free tuition policy (FTP). Under the scheme, students who are recipients of Student Financial Assistance Programs (StuFAPs) and those who belong to a household that is or was a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) will be prioritized. The remaining students eligible will be “ranked according to their per capita household income”, similar in essence to the University of the Philippines’ Socialized Tuition System (STS).

The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) denounces the IRR of the FTP as it clearly translates to a nationwide socialized tuition system. “Learning from the experience of the University of the Philippines, by subjecting students to a competition of “poorest of the poor” to prove their worthiness, this has resulted to the edging out of the poor, by those coming from the upper/middle class who have relative capacity to comply with various requirements imposed by SUCs,” said NUSP National Spokesperson Mark Vincent Lim.
“According to CHED’s own calculations, at least 1 million students are expected to enroll for A.Y. 2017-2018, 85% of whom the FTP can only shoulder, with the computation of P9,345 tuition for 42 units per year,” said Lim.

“And since the FTP only covers tuition, students still need to shell out for other school fees (OSF) and expenses. Worse, SUCs administrations could take advantage of the FTP to hike OSF so as to compensate for profit losses that will be incurred from the implementation of the policy,” added Lim.

“The targeted implementation of the FTP undermines the right of all citizens to free education regardless of socio-economic status. NUSP strongly opposes a nationwide socialized tuition which translates to profiteering in SUCs nationwide,” said Lim.

“NUSP calls on the Duterte administration to implement the free tuition policy in state universities and colleges within the framework of free education. The Union calls on all Filipino students and the general public to mount sustained protests nationwide as we endeavor to junk all neoliberal policies, to reclaim the public character of SUCs, and to institutionalize free public education at all levels,” concluded Lim.