By Andrea Jobelle Adan
Three bold, capitalized words were all it took to plunge students into a gamble between money and knowledge.
On July 12, a memorandum was sent to college secretaries and coordinators, notifying them of the “no late payment” policy which applied not only to the registration but also to procedures such as dropping, residency, leave of absence, among others.
“These are not new rules,” said Dr. Marilyn Canta, University Registrar, citing the 2013 amendments to the Revised University Code which gave financially incapable students the chance to apply for a tuition loan.
However, the University has been shrouded in confusion all the same, for only the few who had been granted both units and financial capacity breathed a little easier.
Unfortunately, third year Journalism student Luigi Naval is not one of them. With his sister abroad as his family’s sole provider, swift and sufficient money is a pipe dream.
“Before, [we] had enough for a partial tuition loan. Now, it’s all full tuition loans,” he said.
Still, the tides have gone rougher with Naval being left to provide for himself. Now that his sister has decided to study again, he must make do with the 60 pesos an hour he gets as a student assistant in the College of Mass Communication (CMC).
The then impending Aug. 5 payment deadline pushed him to apply for a loan early, despite having three units less than the advised 21 for his junior year.
Naval will have to look for 2000 pesos within the following week, since the additional three units are excluded from the loan.
“You have to apply early and allow time for the processing or for accidents. Last time, Chancy [Chancellor Michael Tan] was said to have been out of town,” he said. With tired eyes, he added, “What if you don’t get the loan? What do you do then?”
The uncertainty of the gamble never left him.
Defending the right to education
In a dialogue between the University Student Council (USC) and the Chancellor, deadlines for registration and payment have been moved to Aug. 10 and Sept. 7 respectively.
Despite these changes, various student groups retained their position against the policy, along with notorious eUP project, which aims to unify all UP units’ information systems.
“It [council efforts] provided immediate relief. But we cannot stop here,” said University Student Council Chairperson Bryle Leano. Replacing one repressive policy with another is easy, he said
On the first day of regular students’ registration, a holding room at the UP College of Mass Communication (CMC) rang with cheers after CMC Student Council Vice Chairperson Jesse Doctor distributed papers for the signature campaign against the policy.
The CMC Administration, meanwhile, remained objective on the issue.
Professor Teresa Congjuico said the college will follow whatever memorandum, in line or against the policy, that is given to them.
According to Canta, the memorandum aimed at a more efficient registration process. She explained how the administration’s working rhythm is broken by the “trickle down” of appeals.
Under the policy, those who have appealed for late payment will have their cases processed only during the cycles. Where before, students were free to enlist classes and pay beyond the registration period, now they must adhere to the set deadlines.
“Students can still apply for the loan if they are unable to pay now. The administration ensured the smallest interest possible,” she said.
Under the tuition loan policy, a student may apply for partial or full tuition loans. No interest is added if the loan is paid within four months.
“But there is more to what we’re being made to go through. There is the lack of slots, the dorm fees,” Leaño said, pertaining to the problems of the registration process.
Problems which, Student Regent Raoul Manuel believes, will only increase and intensify in semesters to come.
“We have to ready ourselves, ready the protests. The enrollment process in Diliman is set to get uglier,” Manuel said during a protest action at the AS lobby against the commercialization of education on Aug. 3.
Despite council projects campaigning against repressive policies on education, student councils are limited in their call against this problem without the united call of the student body, said Doctor.
It is in the unified assertion of rights, he reiterated, that cases like Naval’s will ever hope to reach the administration’s ear.
“What if you really don’t have the money to pay for your education?” Naval continued to ask, eyes wide yet aware of the growing odds against him.
But amidst these doubts, he retains hope that one day, through the student movement and the implementation of pro-student policies, quality education in UP will no longer be a privilege not only for him but for every Iskolar ng Bayan. #