UST students battle admin over “no promissory note” rule
Students of University of Santo Tomas (UST) are up in arms over a new enrollment policy barring students with tuition debts to enroll. The policy, announced weeks during the enrollment for second semester, required all students to settle all outstanding financial obligations and disallowed the previous practice accepting promissory notes. An interest of 6% per annum will also be charged.
About 9% of the student population or as much as 4,000 students with unpaid financial obligations will be affected by the policy. The UST administration holds the school records of the students, leaving them no choice but to drop-out or take a leave from studying.
Students complain that the administration abruptly implemented the policy, only announcing it through its myUSTe portal. To make it worse, the only option shown in the site is “agree.”
They say it is “absurd” for the University to expect students to come up with tens of thousands of pesos in a few days time. Many of the students with debts expected that they could enroll upon submitting a promissory note. Students also pointed out that this is exactly how they “survive” given high tuition and other costs.
In a statement, the Thomasians for Education Alliance aptly pointed out that the policy shows “grave inconsistency” with its proclaimed virtues of compassion and charity as the country’s biggest and oldest Catholic University. Amidst the economic hardships Filipino families face, the policy is seen as “inconsiderate and insensitive.”
‘No money, no entry’
The policy is seen by the student leaders as a step to intensify “commercialization” and fee increases. They rejected claims by the administration that they are losing money because of student debts.
“Tuition in UST has in fact increased annually without let-up for more than a decade. Student population has increased exponentially. It only takes a glance at all the new infrastructure and facilities, and a look at all the pageantry it has hosted from international conferences and banquets to grand fireworks displays to know that the University is awash with cash,” said the Alliance of Concerned Thomasians (ACT Now!).
They added: “This new policy should not be sold as an effort to save UST from bleeding, because it is not. This policy is but a means of ensuring its increasingly astounding income.”
Is UST veering away from providing access for mostly middle-class, even lower-middle class families in order to pave way for its becoming a more exclusive elitist school?
They said, “The new enrollment and tuition payment policy of UST is another manifestation of the worsening commercialization of education in the country where education has increasingly become a private commodity for those who can pay, and likewise a manifestation of the gross negligence of the government in regulating private schools who make astounding profits out of a social service and a right.”
Victory of collective action
Students held protest activities, including noise barrage protests, sit-in vigils and a “lunch date” protest, together with dialogues with administrators. Initially, the admin lifted the 6% interest and extended the enrollment but refused to budge regarding the “no promissory note” policy.
Later on, after a series of activities and dialogues, the student council reported that the policy has been lifted and promissory notes will be accepted “depending on the reasonableness” of the cases. However, some still reported on Facebook that they are not being allowed to enroll. There are also some who said that the lifting of the policy will not be any good to them as they have already filed their leave to take on jobs.
In statement, members of Anakbayan in UST congratulated the students for their victory. But they clarified that the battle is not yet over.
“Nananatili ang ugat ng kaguluhang ito. Ang abot-langit na matrikula at mga bayarin ang dahilan kung bakit ang mga estudyante ay nalulubog sa utang. Nakaamba pang higit na tumaas ito dahil sa banta ng taunang TOFI ngayong semestre. Nananatiling ang edukasyon ay ibinebenta sa mga may kakayanang magbayad, sa halip na tiyakin bilang karapatan. Ika nga, ‘No money, No entry’. Ito ang tumitinding komersiyalisasyon na kailangang ilantad at pigilan.”
Tomasinos and other private schools students should learn the value of collective action and prepare for bigger battles ahead. For sure, plans to raise tuition and other fees, along with policies like the “no promissory note,” will again be implemented especially as government and CHEd refuse to fulfill its mandate to regulate school fees and ensure access to education for all.