In year 3 of STS,
1 of 4 students borrowers apply for 100 percent loan
■ Karen Ann Macalalad
More than one in four UP Diliman (UPD) loan applicants borrowed 100 percent of their tuition this second semester of academic year (AY) 2016 to 2017, despite the additional process of obtaining the chancellor’s approval for submission to the campus’ loan board.
A total of 28.1 percent of student borrowers acquired a full loan, 7.33 percent higher than the figure recorded in the first semester of AY 2014 to 2015. The percentage of the 80-percent loan borrowers subsequently decreased by 6.5 percent in the same period, data from the Office of Scholarships and Student Services (OSSS) showed (see sidebar).
Undergraduates may apply for a loan as much as 80 percent of their assessed tuition fee by submitting only a four-paged promissory note on the loan board. Applications which cover the full cost of tuition meanwhile require the chancellor’s approval.
Overall, a total of 1,753 students incurred a debt this semester, 1,431 of whom are undergraduates covered by the Socialized Tuition System (STS). Students with a 60 percent tuition discount comprise a third of the borrowers, while those with an 80 percent discount comprise a quarter.
The STS is believed to process discount applications faster than the 24-year old Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP), which it replaced in 2014. Since UP receives only almost half of its proposed budget every year, the admin instituted socialized tuition schemes and land lease projects to generate income.
Students apply for loans due to delayed STS appeal results, financial concerns, and lack of cash on hand, OSSS Officer-in-Charge Kenneth Jamandre said. One in five borrowers last semester had outstanding STS appeals to be reassigned to higher tuition discounts.
However, it is the high cost of UP tuition amounting to a maximum of P1,500 per unit which forces students to avail loans, Student Regent Raoul Manuel said. This amount surpassed the P1,096 estimated family living wage in the National Capital Region, more so compared with the P12 per unit tuition in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.
The number of borrowers reflects the high cost of living in Quezon City, a member of the 2013 study group which assessed the admission policy of UP and UPD Journalism Professor Danilo Arao said. The monthly cost of UPD dormitory for undergraduates alone ranges from P250 to P1,500, while rentals outside cost at least P2,000.
Ineligible to enroll
Loans unsettled within four months incur a six percent annual interest, or a P1,350 additional fee for a student without an STS discount and had a full loan to cover a 15-unit load. Students are allowed to defer payment of loans for a maximum of three semesters only.
As of February 3, a total of 275 students have yet to settle their tuition debts incurred on the first semester, amounting to P3.42 million.
“Merong students na hindi financially ready sa pag-aaral sa university kaya nagre-resort to multiple loans kahit may outstanding balance pa,” Jamandre said.
The OSSS advises unpaid borrowers to provide a partial payment of their loans or appeal to the chancellor instead for the late payment of their second semester tuition, Jamandre said. A total of 197 students appealed for late payment due to emergency situations and delayed family remittances, data from the Office of the Chancellor showed.
The multi-sectoral Justice for Kristel Alliance proposed in 2013 to allow student borrowers pay their loans even after graduation, following the suicide of UP Manila student Kristel Tejada who was tagged ineligible for enrolment due to unpaid loans. But the admin rejected their recommendation, claiming it encourages students not to pay their loans, Arao said.
The admin also retained Articles 333, 430, and 431 in the Revised University Code of the UP, which the group demanded to be repealed since these supposedly bar unpaid students from enrolling and being admitted to their enlisted classes.
“Maraming estudyante ang hindi bayad dahil ‘yung edukasyon sa UP at ating bansa ay itinuturing bilang isang kalakal, kung saan nais maksimahin ‘yung kita mula sa bawat estudyante,” Manuel said. Tuition fee collection in UP soared to P473.43 million in 2014, which is 33.17 percent higher than the collected fees in 2010, data from the Department of Budget and Management showed.
Free education possible
With the high tuition cost and unpaid loans every semester, student groups have called to junk the STS in favor of a free tuition scheme across all levels. Kabataan Partylist filed House Bill 4800 or the Comprehensive Free Public Higher Education Bill on January 23, which pushes for free tuition to in all public schools. Provisions include the readmission of drop-outs and the introduction of a nationalist and scientific curriculum in colleges.
“If passed, this bill stands to benefit not only the 1.6 million students currently enrolled in [state universities and colleges] SUCs, but also million others who will be able to enter college without fearing the heavy costs,” said Kabataan Partylist Sarah Elago in a statement.
The OSSS has yet to review any document relating to free education, but the roles of the office will be adjusted accordingly should UP implement the scheme, Jamandre said.
In December 2016, the Congress granted the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) an additional P8.3 billion budget to fund tuition payments, which was initially provided for the development projects in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. However, the proposed policy guidelines of CHEd excluded UP from the free tuition program with its implementation of STS, so as the recipients of existing scholarships.
“Hindi dapat paghihiwalayain ‘yung scholarship and free tuition…free education does not equate to free education plus cost of living allowance,” Arao said. While it is true that the rich outnumbered the poor, the admin do not measure the benefits poor students will have in terms of being able to finally focus on their studies, he added.
Instead, there is a need to reform the current UP admission system which is biased toward the students coming from the urban areas and private schools, Arao claimed. “The call to repeal STFAP or STS has been there since 1989. There is nothing to reform in that system that is inherently income-generating.” ■
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