DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The University of the Philippines Mindanao announced on Friday that it will not be collecting tuition and other fees from students for the first semester of Academic year 2017-2018 until “further instructions”.
On Friday, July 28, UP Mindanao Chancellor Sylvia Concepcion issued a memorandum declaring UP Mindanao to refrain from collecting tuition and miscellaneous fees.
The copy of the memorandum furnished by UP Mindanao University Student Council reads: “As agreed by the Executive Committee in its 28 July 2017 meeting, assessment and collection of student fees for the First semester AY 2017-2018 is deferred until instruction from UP system is received.”
UP Mindanao is the fifth constituent unit that suspended tuition collection for the upcoming semester after UP Diliman, UP Manila, UP Los Baños and UP Baguio.
Tactical victory for free education campaign
UP Mindanao University Student Council Vice-Chairperson Prince Harvey Arellano told Davao Today that the recent announcement is just a tactical victory for the students fight for free education.
The free tuition program is only good for now as the government has not yet passed a law to fully subsidize the tuition and miscellaneous fees of SUC students.
“It’s a tactical victory for our fight towards free education and no to tuition collection,” said Arellano.
“Pero hindi tayo titigil sa ating laban at mas lalakas ang ating mga kampanya para wala na talagang bayaran ang mga estudyante sa mga State Universities and Colleges, (But our fight continues and we will strengthen our campaign for students to enjoy free tuition in State Universities and Colleges)” he added.
The student leader also said that they will continue to pressure the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the agency which will craft the guidelines for the said policy, to enact a full tuition subsidy for SUC students for this school year.
“Since ang hinihintay natin ay ang final guidelines for free tuition policy ay mas iprepressure [namin ang] CHED na bubuo ng guidelines na wala na talagang tuition na icocollect. tuloy pa din ang ating laban hanggang makamtan natin ang free education. (Since we are still waiting for the final guidelines of the free tuition policy, we will continue to pressure CHED which will craft the guidelines to implement no tuition collection,” Arellano added.
SUCs had been experiencing budget cuts during Aquino administration. According to Kabataan Partylist, 59 out of 114 SUCs suffer a net decrease in funding during President Aquino’s last year in office.
No more free tuition in 2018
In a statement on Thursday, ACT Teachers Party-list representatives Antonio Tinio and France Castro cried foul for the removal of funds for free higher education in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2018.
ACT Teachers Partylist also reveal that Commission on Higher Education (CHED) will experience P6.29 billion budget cut for 2018.
“This is a huge step backward for the administration, its dismissal of the people’s demand for higher budgets for education,” said Castro.
“While the Philippine National Police, Department of National Defense, and Armed Forces of the Philippines are given hefty increases, higher education will suffer a tremendous budget cut. The Duterte administration should prioritize funding basic social services such as education instead of his wars against the people,” Castro added.
In the 2017 NEP, P8.3 billion were realigned from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) budget to CHED for the Higher Education Support Fund (HESF) to subsidize tuition for SUC students.
However, according to Tinio CHED’s special provisions were not reiterated while the provisions on free tuition and the HESP was deleted in the 2018 NEP submitted by the President to Congress.
“President Duterte’s economic managers consistently opposed the bill, then he himself subjected the ₱8.3-billion allocation in the 2017 budget to conditional implementation. And now, funds that are supposed to continue the free college program in 2018 are missing from his proposed budget,” said Tinio.
The militant solons urge the Congress to reinstate the provisions providing free tuition for state universities students in the 2018 national budget.
“We have proven in the budget last year that the state can afford to allocate funds for education in the tertiary level,” said Tinio.
It [Congress] supposedly has the power of the purse, so it should even take a step forward and significantly increase funds for free higher education. We also demand President Duterte to sign into law the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education bill,” said Castro. (davaotoday.com)