FIRST DAY FIGHT
Touted as “First Day Fight,” University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman students walked out on August 8, 2017, the first day of classes in UP, to protest the collection of tuition and to junk other school fees. Students were enraged by UP President Danilo Concepcion’s July 31, 2017 Memorandum No. PDLC 17-21A that outlined the guidelines on tuition and other fees collection for the first semester of Academic Year (AY) 2017-2018.
Students led by political party Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP) lambasted the UP administration’s disregard of the May 2017 joint memorandum circulars (JMCs) of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). The said JMCs provided the implementing guidelines for the provision of the Free Tuition Subsidy 2017.
In his memo, Concepcion said that the tuition subsidy as enumerated in the JMCs shall merely be “in addition to the financial support being extended by the UP System to qualified students.” This is contrary to the spirit of the Free Tuition Subsidy 2017 to provide free tuition to all.
Moreover, Concepcion’s memo enraged students as it reinforced the highly-opposed Socialized Tuition System (STS): “In the assessment of tuition and other fees, and in providing financial support to students from low-income households, UP shall use the Socialized Tuition System for AY 2017-2018.” STAND UP has perennially called for the junking of the “flawed and profiteering” STS since the said system stratifies students according to brackets instead of providing free education to all.
REMAIN VIGILANT DESPITE NO TUITION AND FEES COLLECTION
Later in the afternoon, after the student protest of August 8, the UP administration published in its website Concepcion’s new Memorandum No. PDLC 17-21B dated August 7, 2017. The said memo serves as supplemental guidelines on the collection of tuition and other school fees for AY 2017-2018, the highlight of which is that “No tuition and other school fees shall be collected…”
Concepcion’s new memo underscored that it shall collect no tuition and other school fees for AY 2017-2018 in anticipation of and in the spirit of the newly-signed Republic Act No. 10931, or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, that provides free tertiary education to all undergraduate students of state universities and colleges (SUCs), local universities and colleges (LUCs) and technical-vocational schools. The said law shall take effect next year.
STAND UP said that while Concepcion’s memo is a welcome step towards the Filipino students struggle for free and quality education, the group shall remain vigilant as the UP administration continues to implement the socialized tuition system as mechanism of collecting fees from students. This mechanism is still seen as an affront to the right to free education, especially that even President Rodrigo Duterte has announced that he signed the free tuition bill into law knowing that the government doesn’t know where to get the funding.
It has been seen that inadequate government subsidy to education has spawned spates of tuition and other school fees increases and impositions, all shouldered by the students.