Students’ challenge to CHED: Regulate tuition, defend student rights and welfare
Last August 26, student leaders from National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), League of Filipino Students (LFS), and College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) together with Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino met with new Commision on Higher Education (CHED) Chairperson Patricia Licuanan to tackle student issues and concerns.
Dr. Patricia Licuanan is an educator, unlike past CHED chairperson Emmanuel Angeles who was a private school owner. According to her wiki page, she was president of Miriam College, chief executive officer of the Forum in English of Philippine Business for Education at the Asian Institute for Management and trustee of the Center for Asia Pacific Women in Politics.
She listened intently to the concerns of the students and jotted down notes during the discussion. This was the first time that a consultation on various issues was held between student leaders and CHED chair.
Here are some of the issues that was brought to her attention:
1. Regulation of tuition hikes
The students reminded the commission of its mandate to regulate tuition fees and stop unjust and unreasonable fee collection. The government and CHED leadership in the past nine years under the Arroyo administration have failed in doing so as tuition and other fee rates in the past years have skyrocketed.
NUSP pointed out that the national average tuition rate increased by 94.7 percent, from P257.41 in 2001-2002 to P501.22 for this academic year. In the National Capital Region, average tuition rates increased by 95.54 percent, from P439.59 to P855.20 in 2009.
The students pointed out that tuition increases are not justified as top private schools register hike in their profits. The students reiterated that education should not be for business and profit, but is primarily a social service, and CHED should ensure the implementation of such principle.
Aside from tuition, many schools also collect other fees which are unreasonable, redundant or unjust. During the past years, there has been no clear CHED policy for the monitoring of these fees.
The students and Dr. Licuanan agreed that there is a need to review the consultation and approval process of tuition rates. CHED memo order 13, which serves as guide for annual tuition increases, was issued way back in 1998 and should already be replaced.
The student leaders also explained the flaws in the consultation process in the CHED guideline. Many complain that the consultation process is not at all a consultation but only a “for-your-information” meeting. In the consultations meetings, no clear explanation of why there is a plan to increase tuition, in most times, students are not even informed of how much the increases are. Students have no real part in decision making, and there is no clear guide on what happens if students contest the tuition increase proposals.
In effect, the consultation process and CHED regulation guidelines are farcical in nature and are only stamp-pad processes in the school administration’s plan to increase tuition. Add to this the fact that increases in miscellaneous fees, increases in tuition of freshmen, and certain “automatic” increases are exempt from consultation.
2. State subsidy for state universities and colleges, uniting against privatization and commercialization schemes
The CHED chair will sit in the board of regents of the state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the country. Dr. Licuanan was asked by the students to oppose the budget cuts in SUCs, and stop the commercialization and privatization trend in our SUCs.
The students reminded Licuanan that it is still government’s responsibility to provide accessible and quality education in all levels, including college and that increases in tuition and other fee rates in SUCs are unacceptable. Government should be funding SUCs and the trend of privatization and commercialization of education should be reversed.
3. Defending student democratic rights and welfare
The students also appealed to the CHED chair to defend students rights and welfare, citing many cases of violations of student democratic rights in campus.
NUSP noted cases wherein there student councils and publications are shut down because they oppose school policies or join political activities. Many are being unjustly penalized, suspended or expelled because they exercise democratic rights in campus. Students also told Licuanan of cases of military deployment in campuses leadeing to harrassment and red-tagging of student leaders and campus organizations.
The student leaders also pushed for student representation in the board of trustees or major decision making bodies of private universities and colleges, something that SUCs currently implement.
The cases prompted Dr. Licuanan to explore the possibility of creating a student rights and welfare body to look into cases of violation of students rights, a positive development if implemented.
Dr. Licuanan promised to study the proposals and concerns of the students and to have more activities with student leaders. The student leaders are hopeful that the CHED chair will take up the challenge of standing for the students’ rights and interests.
However, they are also aware that they will be able to push for their rights and demands by striving to create a stronger student movement that is ready to take on anti-student and anti-people policies the Aquino government is poised to take, and to further fight for the people’s right to education.
Article for Blogwatch.ph