August 16, 2017

Where has the public character of UP gone?

It is crytal clear how the UP administration under the leadership of President Alfredo Pascual has intensified the commercialized orientation of the UP education system. With a stratospheric base tuition of P1,500 per unit, UP has lost its public character as a state university.

In a television interview, Pascual said that there are mechanisms and policies for low-income students to cope with the high cost of UP education. One supposed augmenting mechanism is the student assistant (SA) program, where students are given hours of workload compensated by low salary or allowance and no other benefits. One other policy is securing a student loan and another is the existence of limited scholarships and grants.

Pascual also cited that only around 10% of the UP student population pay P1,500 per unit in tuition. However, this very statement is a sheer lie! In fact, last academic year in UP Diliman alone, the number of students paying P1,500 pesos per unit reached an all-time high of 40% or 7,307 students under the new socialized or bracketed tuition scheme.

UP students must pay PP22,500 in tuition fees alone for a regular 15-unit load, not to mention that there are other school fees (OSF) imposition.

The Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) – with its new name, STS or Socialized Tuition System – is nothing but a smokescreen to tuition increase. Eeach time the UP administration “reforms” the STS or bracketing system, the base tuition of UP increases. In the past couple of years, base tuition increased from P300 to P1,000 to the current P1,500 per unit.

The UP administration cannot deny the fact that due to the high cost of UP education, one out three (1 out of 3) UP College Admission Test (UPCAT) qualifiers defer enrollment in UP. It is also very telling that around 50% of the UPCAT passers comes from private high schools, mostly from the National Capital Region (NCR). UP education has remarkably been alienating the impoverished and the marginalized students of society.

What Pascual didn’t metion in his interview are the realpolitik of UP education. A heartbreaking one is the case of Kristel Tejada, a UP Manila student who, unable to pay for her tuition and other school fees, was pushed to the edge by the commercialization policies of the UP administration and the Aquino government.

Pascual is no more than a brazen apologist and implementor of the BS Aquino III administration’s commercialization and state abandonment of Philippine education. To name a few, Pascual has subscribed to the following: insufficient and DAP-inserted UP budget, the corporatization of UP through public-private partnerships (PPP) with Ayala, the contractualization of employees, the closure of UP-owned University Food Service to favor private entities, and the dissolution of more than 300 workers items, among others.

Pascual’s adherence to Aquino’s RPHER or Roadmap to Public Higher Education Reforms – the commercialization of state education via tuition and OSF increases and the rabid corporatization of lands and assets through leases to mammoth capitalist companies, among others – tell us that the UP administration is hellbent to sacrifice its public character, it’s being the University of and for the People, to favor the whims and caprices of the big bosses of privatization and neoliberalism.

This, however, is not the kind of UP – or Philippine education altogether – that we want to inherit. The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), together with the UP Office of the Student Regent, the Katipunan ng mga Sangguniang Mag-aaral sa UP (KASAMA SA UP), alliances and mass organizations will not falter in exposing the ills of the Pascual-led UP administration and in pushing for a nationalist, scientific and mass-oriented UP and Philippine education.

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