“We showed it is possible for iskolars ng bayan to unite.”
By DANIEL BOONE
MIAG-AO, Iloilo — The call for free college education continues to gain grounds in the University of the Philippines (UP), with majority of student council leaders of various UP campuses joining the call.
At the 44th General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC), the leaders of at least 40 out of 53 UP student councils emphasized the need for free, accessible, and quality education for all. The event was held in the UP Visayas Miag-ao campus from July 11 to 12.
“We are happy that student leaders joined the campaign for free education for all. It is clear that the UP administration can provide free education, but it does not do so because of neoliberalism,” said UP Student Regent Raoul Danniel Manuel.
On July 11, UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan announced at a student mass action in Diliman that there will be no collection of fees in the said UP campus until the government is clear about their policies and plans about the Duterte administration’s free tuition policy. As of now, the government remains unclear as to how much subsidy there will be or if it would at least be partial or full subsidy for fees.
“In the recent victory in UP Diliman, we showed it is possible for iskolars ng bayan to unite for free education. There are organizations who say free education cannot be because funds are needed, but it has been proven false,” Manuel said.
The student regent is the sole representative of the 55,000 student population to the UP Board of Regents, which is the university’s highest policy-making body. The GASC, meanwhile, is a bi-annual convention of all student councils in UP. It is considered to be the highest council of all student councils in UP as it is where they forge unity and discuss campaigns.
Will the collection of other school fees continue?
In December 2016, the government realigned a total of P8.3 billion ($166 million) to the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) to be used to cover the cost of tuition of all 117 state-universities and colleges all over the country. From the said amount, a total of P367 million has been given to UP System, which received the second biggest allocation.
The budget, however, will be used to cover tuition alone, and students will still have to pay miscellaneous fees and other fees, such as for energy, internet, laboratory, and library.
Student groups have long denounced and called these fees “dubious” and “redundant.” Such fees, they said, should not be generated from students because these are already included in their budget for maintenance of facilities as well as for operating expenses.
In some UP units like UP Cebu, the collection from other school fees (OSFs) go into lump sum funds, said Manuel. “These fees collected from the students can be considered as profit for the university,” he added.
Meanwhile, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago who spoke on the first day of GASC on July 11, denounced the collection of fees through the socialized tuition system (STS). Such schemes have pitted students against each other as they compete for the slots in the lower bracket.
STS is also a manifestation of the commercialization of UP education, Elago said.
“In UP, because of the socialized tuition, fees are slowly increasing. Instead of democratizing access of education for all, socialization of tuition does the opposite,” she added.
Elago, a former student council member in UP Diliman, joined students leaders who marched towards the UP Oblation in UPV-Miag-ao to show their support for the free education campaign. Similar protests were also held in other UP campuses.