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Probe tuition spike

  • Written by Bernadette E. Tamayo
  • Published in Top Stories
  • Read: 2799
Featured Miriam Defensor Santiago Miriam Defensor Santiago

SENATOR Miriam Defensor-Santiago will call for an inquiry into the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) approval of the petition of some 300 private colleges and universities nationwide to increase tuition.
   
Her move comes amid public outrage over a spike in tuition and other school fees in 313 colleges and universities. The CHEd reported that it approved an average increase of P29.86 per unit or 6.17 percent for tuition, and P135.60 or 6.55 percent for other school fees.
   
The tuition hikes,  meanwhile, coincided with the Senate’s approval of the Unifast Bill (Senate Bill No. 2679) on third and final reading. If enacted, the bill will harmonize all forms of student financial assistance programs, including scholarships, grants-in-aid, and student loans.
   
“We cannot applaud ourselves for approving the Unifast Bill while we sit and do nothing as school fees skyrocket. It would be as if we are broadening access to education on one hand, and allowing it to be limited on the other,” said Santiago.
   
Santiago, co-author of the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (Unifast) Bill, said that Congress must consider drafting legislation to ensure that funds collected from increased school fees are not merely for profit.
   
“The CHEd has issued guidelines for the use of funds derived from tuition increases, but we need to know how they ensure compliance with these rules. Is the submission of documentary requirements enough? Should there be onsite inspections?” the senator said.
   
She was referring to CHEd Memorandum No. 03, issued in 2012, which states that 70 percent of proceeds from tuition increases should fund salary hikes for teachers and other school staff, while 20 percent should be used to improve buildings, equipment, and facilities.
   
The memorandum also mandates schools to hold public consultations before proposing higher fees. CHEd regional offices have, meanwhile, been tasked under the issuance to monitor compliance with established policies on tuition increases.
   
Santiago warned, however, that the memorandum’s failure to require a clear breakdown of proceeds opens it to abuse. “A school can always say that it increased the faculty’s wages, renovated a building, or bought new computers, but how does it support such claims?” she said.
   
The Unifast Bill took into consideration two proposed laws and one resolution authored by Santiago on student financial assistance. These are: the Part-Time Independent Students Grant Bill (S.B. No. 2510), filed in December 2014, which seeks to provide financial assistance to Filipino college students who support their own education by working part-time; the National STEM Scholarship Database Bill (S.B. No. 1319), filed in August 2013, aimed at making more accessible to the public information on available funding for science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) courses; and Senate Resolution No. 338, filed during the wake of super typhoon Yolanda in November 2013, urging an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the need to institutionalize scholarship grants for students severely affected by calamities.

“Making education more accessible to the public should be a priority, right up there (with), if not taking precedence over, the fight against corruption. Corrupt politicians are threatened by an educated public,” she said.