Half of UPD freshies under ‘millionaire bracket’
(This report was first published in print in issue 1 of the Philippine Collegian on 14 June 2011.)
by Marjohara Tucay and Keith Richard Mariano
Over half of the incoming freshmen in UP Diliman, or 900 out of an estimated 1,750 first year students were classified under Bracket A of the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP), and will be paying P1,500 per unit for the current academic year, according to data from the Office of the UP President (OP).
The number of Bracket A freshmen in Diliman recorded this year is over 3,000 percent higher than the total 29 undergraduate students classified in the said bracket last year. The data from OP only covers freshmen already enrolled by June 3.
Students who are classified under Bracket A are assumed to have a gross annual family income of over P1 million. Most of the first year students classified in the highest bracket this semester have “self-declared” their family income, said UP President Alfredo Pascual in a dialogue with student leaders on June 3.
Meanwhile, only 40 freshmen were classified under brackets E1 and E2 and will be granted free tuition, constituting around 7 percent of the total number of freshmen who applied for the STFAP, based on data posted by the Office of Scholarships and Student Services (see sidebar).
Also, for 2011, only 9 percent or 212 of the 2,265 undergraduate students who applied for STFAP were assigned to the lowest brackets of the Alphabetic Bracketing Scheme (ABS) of the STFAP.
Of the 212 recipients of free tuition, 179 were bracketed under bracket E1, of which 35 students are freshmen. Meanwhile, 33 students were qualified under bracket E2, five of which are freshmen, and are to receive a stipend of P12,000 every semester.
“The data we now have shown how two decades of the implementation of STFAP have increased those who pay more and decrease those who pay less,” Student Regent Ma. Kristina Conti said.
The sudden surge in the number of Bracket A students may be largely due to the implementation of the new Bracket B certification scheme, added Conti.
A memorandum issued by Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA) Gisela Concepcion last April 8 required all incoming freshmen and transferees who wish to be classified under Bracket B, which is for students with gross annual income of P500,001 to P1 million, to submit documentary evidence including copies of income tax returns or employment contracts of their parents and a vicinity map of their family residence.
“The change is being made to strengthen a weak rule and ensure the integrity of STFAP implementation…The required submission of supporting documents under the new rule is expected to make students honest about their socio-economic standings,” Pascual said in a statement.
However, Conti explained that the underlying reason for the new rules on bracket certification is to raise revenues being collected from students. “What appears to be happening now is instead of providing assistance to students, STFAP has become a mechanism to charge students with higher tuition rates,” Conti added.
Change in base tuition?
Before the implementation of the Bracket B certification, students who do not apply for socialized tuition pay the base rate of P1,000 per unit, according to the STFAP website. Students only needed to submit a signed document signifying that their family’s income does not exceed P1 million.
However, with the new requirements in place, the administration has seemingly changed the base tuition from P1,000 to P1,500, Conti said.
“The memorandum’s focus on the fulfilment of the new Bracket B certification and additional requirements for classification under Bracket B cannot but be interpreted as a change in the default bracket of the STFAP given the students’ experience with STFAP,” according to the UP Kilos Na Alliance in a statement.
The UP administration denied that the new rules for Bracket B certification have changed the base tuition. In a memorandum released by VPAA Concepcion on June 6, she clarified that “there is no change in the STFAP bracket schedule and there is no tuition fee increase.”
“In fact, there is no such thing as base tuition,” Pascual told student leaders in the dialogue.
“The idea of a base tuition is that’s what you’ll pay if you don’t submit anything to STFAP. With new requirements needed for Bracket B certification, those who don’t bother to submit documents are obliged to pay a higher rate,” Conti explained.
“Sa ganitong sistema, tila inaasahan ng administrasyon ng UP na lahat ng papasok ng bagong estudyante ng UP ay kayang magbayad ng P1,500 kada yunit unless proven otherwise,” said National Union of Students of the Philippines Chair Vanessa Faye Bolibol.
Since the first implementation of the STFAP in 1989, the program aimed to “democratize access” to the university by providing financial assistance and tuition discounts to students.
STFAP utilizes economic indicators such as gross annual income to gauge the income bracket of each applicant. The original bracketing scheme has been twice revised in the past years to adjust the income brackets.
However, based on Collegian data, after over two decades of implementation of the STFAP, the number of UP Diliman students benefiting from free tuition dropped by almost 90 percent.
In 1991, one in every five undergraduate students in Diliman benefited from free tuition under the program. By 2010, only one in every one hundred students is granted free tuition.
“Ang mga ginagamit na indicators ng STFAP ngayon ay hindi na lapat sa konkretong sitwasyon,” Bolibol said.
Abigail Jamias, an incoming freshman, told the Collegian her first experience with the STFAP application process, where she applied for Bracket C and was instead classified as Bracket A. “I am absolutely not fine with my being assessed to Bracket A. I did apply for Bracket C because it is where my family’s income belongs. I applied for an appeal and the whole application process is indeed, laborious,” Jamias said.
During the June 3 dialogue with Pascual, he told the student leaders that the administration will soon be reviewing the STFAP system and revise the flaws on the bracketing procedure.
“Pero anumang pagbabago sa STFAP, hindi nito maitatago ang katotohanang nagamit at patuloy itong ginagamit upang maging justification sa pagtataas ng matrikula. Sa halip na maglaan ng panahon upang lalo pang pahirapin ang proseso ng STFAP, nararapat na mas paigtingin ng pamahalaan ang panawagan nito para sa mas mataas na subsidy,” Bolibol said. ●
|Bracket||Number of qualified undergraduate students*||Number of qualified freshmen|
(More than P1 million)
(P500,001 to P1,000,000)
(P250,001 to P500,000)
(P135,001 to P250,000)
(P80,001 to 135,000)
(P80,000 or less)
*Data obtained from the posted results for the first and second batch of bracketing from the Office of Scholarships and Student Services
**Estimate from the Office of the President. Data does not cover freshmen who enrolled after June 3
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