Tuition up in 451 colleges

Nationwide moratorium for 111 SUCs

As 111 state colleges and universities were set to observe a nationwide moratorium on tuition increases this year, student and youth groups on Sunday urged the 451 of the 1,604 private schools to follow suit.

Kabataan, League of Filipino Students and the National Union of Students of the Philippines and other youth organizations demanded that the Commission on Higher Education reject the applications of 451 private schools for a 5 percent to 10 percent increase in tuition.

At the same time, the groups welcomed the announcement of the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges to impose a nationwide tuition hike moratorium for the incoming school year, including those that already approved increases for this year.

“We welcome PASUC’s support (for) the students’ clamor for a tuition hike moratorium, especially at a time when the prices of basic commodities continue to soar and wages in the country remain flat,” said Victor Villanueva, NUSP president and fourth nominee of Kabataan party-list.

Villanueva, however, noted that the PASUC memorandum was “not mandatory” as it was still the school board of each state university that will decide if they will follow the memorandum.

“Apart from the PASUC resolution, SUCs should also commit not only to stop all forms of fee increases but also to scrap exorbitant and unjustified fees that are already being implemented,” Villanueva said.

In its resolution, the PASUC advisory council enjoined all 111 state-owned universities and colleges to halt tuition hikes, even in schools that already approved increases for the coming academic year.

The CHED earlier announced that at least 451 private schools have applied for tuition and other fee increases for the next academic year.

Among the biggest of the 451 private schools, including Catholic-run schools, that have pending applications for 5 to 10 percent increase in tuition were: University of Sto. Tomas, 5 percent; University of the East-Recto, 5 percent; Lyceum University of the Philippines, 5 percent; University of the East-Caloocan: 3.5 percent; Colegio de San Juan de Letran, 8 to 10 percent; De La Salle University, 5 percent and Adamson University, 10 percent.

“Year after year, greedy profiteering private school owners increase tuition to near-impossible rates, disregarding the fact that many families cannot cope with such hikes thereby resulting (in) higher drop-out rates. Thus, we challenge private schools to also implement a tuition hike moratorium,” Villanueva said.

Kabataan president Terry Ridon called on PASUC and the administration of state-owned universities and colleges to unite with students in the fight for greater state subsidies.

The Department of Budget and Management required all government agencies to submit their budget proposals for 2014 no later than April 15.

The budget agency will then consolidate all proposals into the National Expenditure Program, which is basically the draft of the General Appropriations Bill which will have to be approved by Congress.

While DBM estimates a P2.27-trillion budget for 2014, a 13-percent increase from the current P2-trillion national budget, youth groups feared more “drastic cuts” in the budget for state-owned universities and colleges.

“The budget for the country’s 111 SUCs might go down by over P3 billion, with DBM giving it a P31.9 billion budget ceiling, which is almost 9 percent lower than the P34.92 billion budget for 2013,” Ridon said.

While Budget Secretary Florencio Abad earlier stated that the budget ceiling for SUCs were “by no means final and inflexible,” youth groups said the P3-billion cut could signal the start of the President’s “Roadmap for Public Higher Education Reform” which will push the state-owned universities and colleges to generate more internal income and reduce their reliance on government funding.

The President’s program aims at having these institutions shoulder 50 percent of their budget by 2016, Ridon said.

“Secretary Abad himself said that future budget allocations for SUCs will follow RPHER, a reform roadmap that we see as a continuation of the regime’s policy of gradually reducing state funding for state schools, eventually leading to total abandonment,” he said.

“Even if the P31.9 budget ceiling eventually increases to let’s say P34 billion or P35 billion after the inclusion of new items and projects, the budget will still be grossly insufficient considering that our SUCs annually propose over P54 billion to DBM,” Ridon added.

“With budget cuts again looming for state schools, we enjoin students and PASUC to again unite to thwart the cuts and show the Aquino administration our vehement opposition,” Ridon said.

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