3 in 100 UPD students under STS to receive free tuition
By Julian Bato, Ronn Bautista
Barely 3 percent of all 11,915 incoming freshmen and upperclassmen who applied for the new socialized tuition program of the university will receive free tuition, based on data obtained from the Office of Scholarships and Student Services.
As of June 30, only 270 students so far were classified under the two non-paying brackets, E1 and E2, of the Socialized Tuition System of 2013 (STS) .
Out of 2,187 first-year applicants, 54 were placed in Bracket E1 and 66 in Bracket E2. Meanwhile, of 9,728 applications from upperclassmen, only 140 and 10 undergraduates were bracketed under E1 and E2, respectively.
Students who receive full tuition discount under Bracket E1 are assumed to have an annual family income of less than P135,000. Meanwhile, those under Bracket E2, who receive an additional P3,500 monthly stipend, are assumed to earn less than P80,000 annually.
Should the number of students under brackets E1 and E2 remain at 260, the STS will set a record low in granting students free tuition. From 2007 to 2012, an average of 1 in 10 applicants were bracketed under E1 and E2.
The STS module will have a final application period from July 7 to 21 for late applicants.
“This is not what the administration promised in their reforms. This new tuition scheme only made UP education more inaccessible to the Filipino youth,” said UP Student Regent Neill John Macuha.
New name, old problems
The STS is the latest batch of reforms to the university’s socialized tuition scheme since it was first instituted in 1989.
Replacing the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP), the STS sought to further democratize access to UP by giving “tuition discounts” to students based on their annual income and household characteristics.
Supposedly improving on STFAP’s application process, STS’ bracket cut-offs have been adjusted upward by 30 percent and students only need to fill out a questionnaire in the STS website to apply.
After two batch runs, the UP administration claimed in a statement that these “improvements” caused the application rate for the university’s socialized tuition program to skyrocket to 90 percent from an average of 50 percent during the STFAP.
In UPD, 11,915 out of 17,044 undergraduate students have already applied for STS.
However, this was mainly due to mandatory application under STS whereas STFAP application was optional.
On June 30, rants about STS results flooded social media networks through the hashtag #BracketAKaNa. For a week, UP students have used the hashtag to express their frustration about the brackets they were assigned to.
Brothers Jonas and Joshua Ermino, for instance, received different tuition rates despite declaring the same information in their STS applications. Incoming UPD freshman Jonas was placed in Bracket C, which charges P600 per unit, while his brother Joshua, a UP Los Banos junior, was assigned to Bracket B, which charges P1,000 per unit.
“We entered the same information [in the STS application form]…nagulat na lang kami na hindi kami pareho ng bracket,” Jonas Ermino said.
According to the STS module, students may appeal to have their brackets reevaluated from July 1 to 21. The Diliman Committee on Scholarships and Financial Assistance (DSCFA) will meet weekly to deliberate these appeals before enrollment starts on August 4.
As of July 6, the DSCFA has already received 1,251 appeals. Only 346 appeals from freshmen have been resolved so far.
If students still need to appeal to get a more affordable UP education, it means there is something wrong in the tuition system itself, Macuha said.
Even before the STS was implemented this June, student leaders and professors have already doubted its method of classifying students accurately.
In a report submitted to UP President Pascual, a study group of six professors and a student leader from UP Manila said that the STS will still face the same mis-bracketing problems when it puts a price on UP education like the STFAP.
“[Socialized tuition] is one of the main drivers in the present skewed distribution of UP students in favor of the upper socio-economic class of Philippine society,” the study group concluded.
Under STS, tuition brackets are determined through annual income and household characteristics based on the MORES 1 SEC, a survey method sponsored by the National Statistics Office and the UP School of Statistics.
Along with declaring their yearly income, students are required to answer a questionnaire about their lifestyle that includes the type of toilet facilities and the number of cellphones in their household.
Calling the STS “same dog, different collar,” the study group pointed out that the questionnaire was problematic and “unscientific” when choices have vague differences. For example, managers, corporate executives, and government employees are clumped together in the same classification.
“Malinaw na mas masahol pa sa STFAP ang STS. Kung gusto talaga ng admin na gawing accessible ang UP education, tanging sa pag-rollback ng tuition natin ito makakamit,” Macuha said. #
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