The New UP Tuition Structure (The Devil is in the Details) (Signed by: Jose Maria Balmaceda, Cynthia Rose B. Bautista, Virginia B. Dandan, Maria Serena I. Diokno, Maria Carmen C. Jimenez, Dina Ocampo-Cristobal, Consuelo J. Paz, Ly SyCip, Ana Maria L. Tabunda, Rosario Torres-Yu)
Note: This is an alternative proposal on tuition by a group of former University of the Philippines administrators:
former Vice President for Academic Affairs Maris Diokno
former Asst Vice Pres.for Academic Affairs Joey Balmaceda
former UP System Admissions Director Ly Sycip
former Social Sc.and Philosphy Dean Cynthia Rose Bautista
former College of Fine Arts Dean Virginia Dandan
former CIDS Director Carmen Jimenez
former College of Education Dean Dina Ocampo-Cristobal
former CSSP Dean Consuelo Paz
former School of Statistics Dean Ana Maria Tabunda
and former College of Arts and Letters Dean Rose Torres-Yu
The New UP Tuition Structure (The Devil is in the Details)
Two things concern us about the tuition fee hike: certain aspects of the new STFAP brackets and their corresponding tuition, and the manner in which the University handled the issue. Despite the Regents’ approval of the new rates on 15 December 2006, we believe it is not too late to raise, and attempt to address, questions of form and substance, for the Board gave President Roman leeway to rework the STFAP brackets, accepting that these require further study.
We cannot, of course, undo what happened last month: the students’ assault on the Chancellor’s car (twice); insufficient consultations and discussions (even the University Council did not act on the proposal in its 6 December 2006 meeting because of the lack of information); the cancellation by UP Diliman of the lantern parade owing to an unexplained threat; the Board’s hasty approval of the tuition proposal; and the resulting conclusion by some that the entire issue was railroaded by the administration. But we can certainly learn from these incidents, which is the spirit behind this proposal. Our proposal focuses on UP Diliman, Manila and Los Baños.
Our concern with the new bracket scheme is that it hurts the lower middle class. We have no problem with brackets A and B and their corresponding tuition rates; socialized fees precisely mean that the wealthy pay more. We also have no problem with bracket E and its corresponding benefits, again in keeping with the concept of socialized fees. But bracket D (with annual incomes of more than P80,000 to P135,000), which did not pay tuition under the old scheme, will now have to pay P300/unit—an infinite increase. We believe this bracket needs the University’s support.
Nationwide 2003 data (National Statistics Office, Family Income and Expenditures Survey) show that families in bracket D spend, on average, 59% of their total income on food (inflated to the current year), and half of them spend no more than P800 a year on education. Minimum wage earners, who are exempt from income tax, belong to this bracket. We do not find it just to charge this bracket the new tuition. We therefore propose the following:
1. Retain brackets A, B and E with their corresponding tuition and benefits, respectively.
2. Revise bracket D so that this bracket no longer pays tuition, but will pay miscellaneous and laboratory fees (as was the practice under the old scheme). This bracket will not receive a stipend (as before).
Moreover, among those in bracket C, families with annual incomes of more than P135,000 to P250,000 used to pay anywhere from P75 to P225 per unit. Under the current scheme, they will pay P600/unit, or well more than 160% (up to 700% for some) from the previous rate. Nationwide data in 2003 (FIES) indicate that households in this range spend on average, close to 50% of their total income on food (inflated to 2006), and half of them spend at most P2,200 a year on education. Families with annual incomes of more than P250,000 to P500,000, on the other hand, spend about 36% on food (adjusted to 2006 prices), and half of them spend at most P10,900 a year on education.
We therefore recommend the following as a transitory measure, pending the availability of data on the current student profile:
3. Divide bracket C into two to reflect the differences above, as follows: C1, from more than P250,000 to P500,000; and C2, more than 135,000 to 250,000.
4. For bracket C2, charge tuition of P200/unit given that they used to pay from P75-P225/unit, with the greater number likely paying P225/unit.
5. As for bracket C1, apply the new tuition of P600/unit. Note that without the dependent’s privilege, a UP professor (associate and full) would pay this rate per child.
We are aware that the de Dios Committee shied away from the FIES (the basis of the old STFAP) and instead relied on actual (self-declared) family incomes of freshmen admitted in 2004 to devise income brackets, because the income profile of UP students is higher than the national mean except in the poorest decile (de Dios report, p. 10). But as the Committee itself points out, the differences in income distribution could be because the University’s weak scholarship and support structure turns away qualified but needy students (p. 10). Indeed the Committee’s hope is that by raising stipends for the lowest bracket to P12,000/semester—with which we agree—poorer students will enjoy greater representation in the overall population (p. 13).
In any case, what we present here is based on our understanding of which type of student needs financial assistance. We refer to the FIES simply to elucidate the plight of lower income families whom we have in mind.
We present this proposal in the firm belief that UP’s mission is primarily to serve the greater number of Filipinos, who are not rich and who depend on extended families here and abroad to sustain them. According to the Atanacio report (p. 3), 80% of Filipino families in 2003 had an average annual income of no more than P176,000. This means the highest bracket for 80% of all families would be bracket C2 under our proposal.
Our concern is not about how we define the rich—that’s fairly easy to do—but how the University treats students who are far from well-off. Bracket D, in our view, is a low income bracket that deserves full tuition subsidy. Yet this bracket is subjected to an infinite increase (from zero tuition to P300/unit).
Very little room was given to discuss and yes, debate on the tuition proposal before the Board of Regents approved it. UP Diliman held only one convocation each for the students and the faculty, and this just a week before the Board approved the proposal. The new bracket scheme was made public only that week, as the Christmas break was approaching. Even the University Council did not have the Atanacio report when it took up the tuition proposal last month and hence could not act on it. (The de Dios report, which was released earlier, proposed a simplified bracket scheme (pp. 9-12) that was subsequently reworked by the Atanacio Committee.) The administration’s primer spoke mainly of the tuition hike.
But as we all know, how much the student will pay depends on which income bracket s/he falls under. The new STFAP brackets are, to us, the crux of the matter. When stakeholders are denied the time to study and discuss, and opportunities for dialogue are severely restricted, one can hardly expect reactions to be reasoned and sober.
In any issue, especially a controversial one, the medium also becomes the message. In this instance, the message was clear: the administration was prepared to decide the matter without a genuine discussion of the issue. Yet an open, serious discussion of the tuition proposal could have improved the proposal before it was presented to the Regents and reduced the sense of alienation that usually accompanies hasty, top-heavy decision-making.
Certain aspects of the new STFAP scheme clearly deserve more serious thought. For example, in reckoning the student’s income bracket, his or her family size is not taken into account. Using bracket B rather than A as the default bracket will not necessarily separate the millionaires from those whose families earn less. Family-financed travel abroad, even if the parent is an OFW, automatically classifies the student as bracket A (millionaire, with tuition of P1,500/unit). In terms of imagery, picture the “fast lane” for rich students alongside long queues of poor students applying for lower brackets. Could this be UP’s centennial look?
Finally, there are many aspects of the old system that need to be revised and because the Atanacio report does not address them, it is not clear if these policies and practices will remain. Some poor students, for instance, were able to study in a private high school because their tuition was waived. But since the STFAP application form does not take this into account, the student is placed under a higher bracket each and every time s/he applies for STFAP. The adjustment, if it comes at all, happens after a long, tedious procedure for appeal.
Some might say all these are details that can be looked into later. But how STFAP is implemented could undermine its very purpose, especially if left to bureaucrats to manage. Unless the details are sorted out, an administrative quagmire could result because now, unlike before, nearly all students will apply for STFAP (owing to the higher default bracket).
The tuition issue, moreover, raises significant questions about our role as a public university and how we choose to relate to one another amid differences of opinion. Had the process been right, these underlying questions could have contributed to a healthy discussion of UP in its forthcoming 100th year. We therefore present this proposal to initiate true dialogue and invite the UP community to an open discussion in the third week of January.
UP Diliman, 3 January 2007
Signed by: Jose Maria Balmaceda, Cynthia Rose B. Bautista, Virginia B. Dandan, CONTACT _Con-3FA37B021 \c \s \l Maria Serena I. Diokno, Maria Carmen C. Jimenez, Dina Ocampo-Cristobal, Consuelo J. Paz, Ly SyCip, Ana Maria L. Tabunda, Rosario Torres-Yu
 Statistics on expenditures are computed for families with at least three members to allow for the possibility of at least one child in the family. Food expenditures are inflated using CPI on food, beverages and tobacco, but incomes are retained at 2003 levels.
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in Feb 8th 2007