UP-Mindanao students bat for abolition of STFAP

Mar. 21, 2013

“Implementation of STFAP is sorely inefficient, and with this, it means shortchanging a lot of students, and even compromising their chances of getting an education in UP,” Mariel Moralde, a sophomore Bachelor of Science in Anthropology student of University of the Philippines-Mindanao said.

Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — University of the Philippines-Mindanao (UP-Mindanao) students press for the abolition of Socialized Tuition Fee Assistance Program (STFAP) in the wake of the uproar caused by the suicide of a UP student last week.

Mariel Moralde, a sophomore student of Anthropology in UP Mindanao, said justice for Kristel will only be achieved “if they can finally see reforms and change in the UP system.”  Kristel Tejada was the UP-Manila student who committed suicide March 15  after she was forced to file a leave of absence for failure to pay tuition fees.

“STFAP has not become what it is supposed to be,” said Moralde, who is also spokesperson of the militant Anakbayan, adding that the STFAP has instead, become “a mechanism of the UP system to generate income at the expense of poor students,” like her.

She said she could very well relate with Kristel’s troubles, having come from a poor family herself who thought UP could fulfill her dreams of getting an education.

A daughter of an Oversees Filipino Worker and a jobless father, she ended up paying the amount of tuition which is a notch lower than what children of millionaires are supposed to be paying.

Despite her family’s economic situation, Moralde is enrolled in UP under Bracket B, which means she has to pay PHP 600 per unit of her tuition.

Moralde said she failed to comply with the requirements to be classified under brackets where tuition fees are lower.

She said that in order to avail of brackets C, D and E, one must fill up a 14-page questionnaire, submit a photo of his/her house, and an electric bill that should not be more than PHP 200 per month, among others.

Moralde failed to secure a certificate of tax exemption so she ended up being classified under Bracket B.  She believes that a lot more students like her ended up in brackets that do not match their family income levels.

Moralde also bemoans the policy  of UP to putting students Bracket A as a “default bracket,” which means, if students are unable to provide the requirements to prove that they belong to lower income families, they are automatically classified under Bracket A, which means they have to pay a tuition fee of PHP 1,000 per unit.

“This is absurd because this would mean that UP students would be made to pay tuition fees that are way higher than the cost of tuition in private higher education institutions!,” Moralde said, adding that even Ateneo de Davao University, the most expensive school in Davao City, collects PHP 900 per unit.  The University of Mindanao collects PHP 300 per unit.

Moralde said even past University Student Council Chairpersons (who sit in the body that categorizes students according to family incomes) could attest to numerous cases of students who are supposed to be deserving of being put under Bracket E1 (which means free tuition) and E2 (free tuition with a stipend of PHP 12,000 per semester) but ended up in Bracket D where the amount of tuition is PHP 300 per unit, due to budget deficiency.

“Implementation of STFAP is sorely inefficient, and with this, it means shortchanging a lot of students, and even compromising their chances of getting an education in UP,” she said.

Moralde pointed out that UP has ceased to become what it was supposed to be created for in the first place, “which is to give poor but deserving students a chance to get a good education.”

She laments that only one out of 10 students in UP are enjoying free tuition fees and blames the overall budget cut in education for the plight of Kristel and all other students like her in UP.

She cited that even the budget of PHP 18.9 billion last year which was supposed to be allotted for UP Mindanao fell short of PHP 8.9 billion pesos.

Moralde also slams President Benigno Aquino III’s reduction of subsidy for State Universities and Colleges in the country and pushing them to become “self-sufficient and financially independent” or the so-called “rationalization of public education policy.”

The austere policies against non-payment of tuition and other loans, which Kristel had to put up with, is a result of this policy which effectively converts UP into an “income-generating” establishment, she said.

“Kristel’s plight shows how indeed, commercialized the country’s educational system have become,” she added.

Incoming University Student Council Chairperson Malaya Genotiva said they are currently conducting consultations regarding STFAP and collating data to support their claims for its abolition.

“We are planning to present the data in time for the system-wide consultation on STFAP which is slated in October,” Genotiva said.

Genotiva said they hail as partial victory the scrapping of the “no late payment” policy in UP–this after the series of protests they launched earlier.  (Cheryll D. Fiel/davaotoday.com)

comments powered by Disqus