Number of bracket A students in UPD hit 8-year high under STS
By Pocholo Enriquez, Ronn Bautista
More than 7,000 out of 18,000 undergraduate students in UP Diliman (UPD) will pay the full tuition rate this semester, an 8-year high since the 400 percent tuition hike of 2007, according to data obtained from the Office of Scholarships and Student Services (OSSS).
As of September 16, the number of students paying the full tuition rate of P1,500 per unit have surged by 43 percent, from 5,112 last year to 7,307 this year.
Out of 13,820 applicants in the Socialized Tuition System (STS), 2,755 students were placed in bracket A. Meanwhile, 2,807 students opted to pay for the full tuition rate and 1,745 students have automatically been classified under bracket A for failing to apply for the STS.
When combined, the number of students paying P1,500 per unit this year is 463 percent higher than the annual average of 1,578 students after the university reformed the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) in 2007.
Under the STS, students whose families earn more than P1,300,000 annually are charged with the full tuition rate in line with new revisions in the STFAP.
This year, the Board of Regents (BOR), UP’s highest policy-making body, implemented new reforms to the university’s socialized tuition program for the second time since 1989 to supposedly accommodate more people in the lower-paying brackets.
“[However] the STS did not differ from the STFAP. It cannot be considered as a better alternative, or an alternative at all,” said Carl Santos, councilor of the UPD University Student Council (USC).
Among the new reforms under STS were updated bracket cut-offs and streamlined survey methods.
Except for brackets E1 and E2 which provide free tuition and free tuition with stipend, respectively, bracket-cut offs under STS have been adjusted upwards by 30 percent. For instance, the bracket A threshold was adjusted from P1 million and above to P1.3 million and above under STS.
Meanwhile, to accurately assess a student’s financial capacity, the BOR implemented the National Statistics Office-sponsored MORES 1SEC survey which requires students to declare their gross annual income and household characteristics such as type of toiletry and number of televisions.
Despite these revisions, student leaders still argue that the STS failed to democratize access to UP education.
As of press time, an all-time high of 3,175 UPD students have appealed to the Diliman Committee on Scholarships and Financial Assistance to have their tuition brackets lowered.
Before the STS, only an average of 300 students file appeals annually.
“The increase of appeals filed by the students shows that the STS did not properly reflect the real socio-economic status of students,” said Santos.
Tuition fee increase?
Instead of providing more students with cheaper tuition rates, student groups said the STS only made UP education less accessible when it openly adopted the 2011 default tuition rate “hike” from P1,000 per unit to P1,500 per unit.
During 2011 to 2013, students who did not apply for the STFAP are automatically placed under bracket A unless they submit documents that proved their annual family income did not exceed P1 million. (See sidebar)
By instituting the same principle in STS, UP effectively assumed the 50 percent default tuition rate hike in 2011, Student Regent Neill Macuha said.
“We can see throughout the years that as we [continue to] reform the system, UP’s tuition [continues to] increase,” said UPD USC Councilor Miguel Pangalangan.
‘Crowding out effect’
According to a study by College of Arts and Letters Prof. Ramon Guillermo, each batch of reforms to the university’s socialized tuition program has only led to charging more students higher tuition rates to subsidize lower brackets.
Guillermo explained that in a socialized tuition scheme, increasing the number of students receiving cheaper tuition rate would also necessitate an increase in the number of students paying higher tuition to shoulder the scheme’s additional expenses.
As such, increasing the number of students in the higher-paying brackets would “crowd out” other students from getting into lower-paying brackets regardless of their annual income, Guillermo said.
Under STS for instance, while the number of students under brackets C, D, E1, and E2 have increased to 6,491 from 1,852 students last year under the old STFAP, the number of students paying full tuition have also increased to 7,307 this year.
To fix the “crowding out” effect, a study group commissioned by UP President Alfredo Pascual proposed to junk the university’s socialized tuition program and rollback the tuition to a rate affordable to all.
Macuha presented a motion to the BOR in July based on the study group’s report, however, Pascual immediately dismissed the proposal.
“Niloloko ng STFAP at STS ang mga estudyante na magbayad ng mas mataas na tuition. Dapat na ipanawagan ang pagbasura sa mga iskemang ito at manindigan na dapat accessible [ang tuition], kundi libre, para sa lahat,” Macuha said.
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