On the Socialized Tuition System (STS)
The academic year 2014-2015 saw the launching of the new Socialized Tuition System (ST System) under the Pascual Administration. This new system unveiled apparent innovations from its predecessor, the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP): a simplified and inflation-adjusted bracketing, a streamlined application and appeals procedure and increased stipend in the lower brackets.
The last General Assembly of Student Councils, held in Davao, affirmed the resolution to junk the said ST System. In response to this, the UP School of Economics Student Council, in line with its mandate to uphold the rights and to serve as the voice of the UPSE students, stands firm on its call for the revision of key provisions of the ST System. Measures must be passed that must ensure not only the efficiency of the system, but the equity and accessibility of UP education for current and future students.
Why Socialized Tuition?
As stated in the Philippine Constitution, “The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels, and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all.”
It can be derived from this article that, as the state university and one of the premier educational institutions in the country, UP must have a system that gives quality and accessible education to deserving students across the country; a mandate that we firmly believe is upheld by the essence of the ST System.
The strength of the system lies in its adherence to the principle of equity. The ST System, in its essence, recognizes that students from the university come from different socioeconomic backgrounds. As such, it allows students to pay only up to what they can afford, placing upkeep and capital outlay costs, prices that are necessary for the continued providing of quality education, to the students who can afford it. It is the ST System, that allows the university to both pay the price of quality education whilst at the same time providing the very same quality education to students who perform to the university’s standard, regardless of socioeconomic context. This is taken a step further by the streamlining of the application and appeals process, lessening the documents needed and drastically shortening the waiting time for results.
The ST System, however, should not be used as an alibi for state abandonment in the providing of quality education; we call for the government to fulfill its mandate of increasing the budget allocated to education, so as to further increase the quality of education given to all students.
Points of Reform
The SESC stands firmly for the principle that the ST System espouses. It is for the absolute manifestation of the principle of equity that we also call for reforms with the current structures and mechanisms of the system.
One of the major contentions with the current setup is in the implementation of the bracketing mechanism. The questionnaire that is the basis for the allocation of each student to a bracket suffers since the content inside, which primarily focuses on family income and consumption patterns, does not give a clear enough picture of the socioeconomic background of the student, which leads to misbracketing. It is also of note that there is currently no way to verify the validity of the responses to the questionnaires. This opens the possibility for both intentional and unintentional representation of one’s assets, which also leads to misbracketing.
2. Regressive Bracket Rates
It has already been stated in previous pieces that the tuition fee a student is required to pay from each bracket is regressive; this means that though students pay less the higher their discount bracket is, the required fee in proportion to the income range per bracket does not decrease, creating an equity issue since less financially able students are more burdened in the long run.
3. Prolonged and Inflexible Procedure
Though it is true that the ST System has provided for a more streamlined procedure in terms of getting initial results, there is still much room for improvement in terms of the efficiency, transparency and flexibility of the system. The process by which applicants are placed into the different discount brackets is not one that is fully disclosed to student body; this includes the initial application process and the appeals process, the latter of which could take months before arriving towards a resolution. Furthermore, the updating of brackets for the ST System happens on a yearly basis; this does not take into account the various unforeseen incidents that may alter a student’s ability to pay for his or her tuition within the semester.
In order to resolve the stated issues regarding the ST System, we offer the following points of recommendation:
First, we call for a holistic review of the ST System’s bracketing mechanism. The MORES 1-SEC that is currently being used to distribute students based on consumption patterns and other variables must be scrutinized in comparison to other statistical apparatus available. The content of the questionnaire itself should also take into consideration the expenditures of a household, not just its income, so as to get a better assessment of the student’s financial capabilities. The administration must also implement a mechanism that can verify the authenticity of data given in application forms and address any possible discrepancies, in the spirit of being fair to the entire student body.
Secondly, the brackets of the ST System must be modified to more realistically capture the socioeconomic status of the students. It must be altered in terms of its fee-to income range ratio per bracket to ensure that each student pays the only the amount that her or she can afford. It should also be more sensitive to nuances that may alter the capability of students to pay, by making the ST System application a semestral process, as well as by making services like student loans more accessible.
Finally, we ask for the administration to be more committed and transparent about the ST System to the students. Efforts should be exerted into allowing access for students to apply for the STS, as well as to share all information regarding the application and appeals process. Furthermore, the administration must further look into measures that can improve the just and swift passing of results and appeals, like the decentralizing decision power to each campus in the system.
The University of the Philippines is an institution that serves to provide accessible, quality education to deserving students, irreverent to socioeconomic status. The essence of the ST System, guided by its principle of equitability, remains to be the best method to realistically, sustainably and justly accomplish this mandate for the students.
WE CALL FOR THE CONTINUED REVISION AND IMPROVEMENT OF THE ST SYSTEM.
WE CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT FOR AN INCREASING AND UNWAVERING COMMITMENT TO HIGHER EDUCATION.
WE STRIVE FOR AN EQUITABLE AND FAIR SYSTEM THAT PROVIDES QUALITY AND ACCESSIBLE EDUCATION.
In order to come up with a statement that is representative of the UPSE student body, the SESC encouraged all students to answer a survey that was duly disseminated through the SESC Batch Representatives at the start of the school year. The survey collected 144 total responses. The following are statistical breakdowns of their answers:
1. Have you ever applied for the ST System?
2. Of the 98 respondents who answered YES to the question above:
3. Of the same 98 respondents
4. Do you believe that tuition fees must be socialized?
5. Are you for or against the ST system?
6. The following is a condensed matrix of the most solicited recommendations and concerns from the survey