By Jeuel Barroso
Calling for free education across the country, student groups from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman began the second semester of the academic year with protests against the government’s “threat” of implementing an income-based tuition system nationwide.
The Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP) along with other student organizations condemned President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement to prioritize the “poor but academically excellent” in the P8.3 billion budget given to the education sector supposed to provide free tuition in SUCs.
“Very reminiscent ito sa Socialized Tuition System (STS) na meron tayo sa bansa… mula 2010 to 2014 ay nakapagkamal ng P1.9 billion ang ating admin gamit lamang ang STS,” UPD University Student Council (USC) Councilor Shari Oliquino said.
STS is a bracketing system that allows the university to designate tuition discounts based on the assessment of a student’s paying capacity.
Since its implementation, enrollment problems such as misbracketing and inability to pay tuition fees have beset UP students.
According to Oliquino, plenty of students are unable to enroll as they could not afford to pay their tuition due to the implementation of neoliberal policies in and out of the university.
For the second semester of academic year 2015-2016, 1,728 out of 15,256 students under STS was able to obtain loans they applied for in January, a lower number compared to the 1861 students of the first semester according to a report by the Philippine Collegian.
Meanwhile, College of Mass Communication Student Council Chairperson Almira Abril explained that neoliberalism in education is manifested in the continuous profiteering from students, thereby ensuring of the excessive profit of the universities.
“Halimbawa ng neoliberal na atake sa edukasyon ay ang pagpapatupad ng Socialized Tuition System na isang lantarang profiteering scheme,” Abril said, “and through history napatunayan natin na STS justifies the commercialization of education.”
Since the initial version of STS in 1989–the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP)–the cost of UP tuition has gone up to 300 percent from 2006.
Consequently, the student organizations protested against the current tuition rate of P1,500 per unit set by UP President Alfredo Pascual, the highest yet in the university’s history.
“Ang panawagan ay yung pagpapabasura sa pinakaunang manipestasyon ng neoliberal na polisiya, which are STS and other school fees,” Abril said,“At syempre ‘yung pagsusulong natin ng tunay na pagkamit natin ng libre, dekalidad at abot-kamay na edukasyon.”
Continuing their campaign for free education for all, the student groups will hold a system-wide protest on January 27 and a walkout protest on February 23.