UP regents defer scholarship reform
MANILA, Philippines - University of the Philippines (UP) president Alfredo Pascual failed to get the nod of the Board of Regents (BOR) for his administration's proposed "new tuition system" during a BOR meeting on Friday, April 12.
"With all UP stakeholders collectively working towards reform, I am confident we can soon truly say that no qualified student is denied education in UP because of financial reasons," Pascual said when he vowed in March to reform the controversial Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) of the state university.
But during its meeting, the highest policymaking body of the university, which is composed of representatives of various sectors in the UP system, appeared more fragmented than united to immediately institute reforms.
"Some regents would like to propose higher tuition rates, others say proposed reform is costly," according to Cleve Arguelles who represents students in the board.
In his presentation to the regents, Pascual himself said the new proposal will result in the "reduction of annual income from tuition and fees from about P1.2 billion presently to a little less than P1 billion under the reform proposal."
The proposed scheme will require an additional expense of about P300 million a year for monthly stipends of UP scholars in the lowest income bracket.
The BOR is expected to again tackle the reform proposal when it reconvenes in May.
The reform proposal
If approved, the new scheme proposed by the Pascual administration would replace the contentious STFAP. It follows the same alphabetic bracketing scheme but reduces the number of brackets from 6 to 5.
The scheme also maintains a millionaires' bracket (A) for students who can pay the full cost of education in UP. Under this bracket, students in UP Diliman, Manila, and Los Baños will pay P1,500 per unit while those from other units will pay P1,000 per unit in other UP units.
Meanwhile, current brackets E1 and E2 are merged under one bracket E. It provides students whose families earn an annual income of P135,000 and below full scholarship and a higher stipend of P24,000 per semester.
Students assigned to other brackets -- B, C, and D -- will enjoy a range of discounts that varies depending on their respective UP units.
The new system features a faster, simpler and more reliable method of assigning brackets based on the Philippine Socio-economic Classification (SEC) that groups households according to their annual expenditures.
The approved changes also involves a simplified application process which includes the following:
- Bracket will automatically be assigned upon admission
- Documents to be submitted will not be required at the start of the academic year
- Only income tax returns and employment certificate are required during audit
The current UP administration earlier admitted that the current STFAP bracket system is ineffective, noting that the assignment parameters used "do not necessarily capture the students' capacity to afford the cost of university education."
It also recognized the growing need for financial assistance that has been documented since the 2007 tuition increase.
It also claimed that students will no longer be charged based on their income class but on "their means to pursue and finish their chosen degree programs."
Merely procedural changes
UP student Arguelles acknowledged that the new system is different in that it introduces a shorter application process, requires lesser documents to submit, and features a new instrument to determine brackets.
But he said the reforms are mainly "procedural changes."
"Parang gobyerno lang, magbago-bago man ng mga pangalan, iisa pa din yan -- that education has a price tag and is not a right," Arguelles said. (Like in government, names of politicians may change but they're still the same.)
The UP Kilos Na (UP Act Now), a university organization campaigning for a higher UP budget, also expressed alarm the new scheme will impose stricter penalties.
Pascual told the BOR that a key feature of the reform proposal includes “strengthened internal controls and severe penalties for misdeclaration.”
But the BOR agreed to adopt a policy statement "that no UP student shall be denied access to UP education because of financial incapacity," Arguelles said.
Meanwhile, UP Diliman Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Corazon Tan said that she preferred the old flat-rate tuition system.
"Ang pinu-push natin ay ibalik siya sa dating sistema kung saan mababa ang flat-rate and then itong flat-rate na ito ay mas accessible sa lahat. Kaysa sa socialized pa rin na kina-categorize pa rin yung mga students. (We are pushing to revive the low flat rate tuition and make it accessible to everyone unlike the socialized scheme which categorizes students.)
Before the STFAP was introduced in 1989, the tuition fee in UP was pegged at P40.
Tan claimed that in a dialogue with UP sectors, Pascual asked why they were complaining when tuition in UP is lower compared to tuition in Ateneo de Manila or La Salle University.
"But there should be no point of comparison. They are private institutions and we are the state university. As the state university, it should be accessible," Tan said.
Other state colleges and universities are closely watching the UP experience on administering its tuition and scholarship scheme at a time when the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is embarking on an initiative to reform the public higher education sector. CHED plans to institute a “generic socialized tuition fee scheme” patterned after the STFAP that will be piloted in 10 SUCs by 2014. - Rappler.com