A party-list lawmaker and student groups on Thursday denounced President Benigno Aquino III and Commission on Higher Education chairman Patricia Licuanan for dismissing as ‘premature’ recent protest actions against impending tuition and other fee increases.
“There is no such thing as a ‘premature protest,’ Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon told the Ched official. “By issuing this statement, Licuanan and CHED just proved that they are totally missing the point of the demonstrations. Students are enraged because under the Aquino administration, tuition rates and the profits of private universities have almost doubled. Students are protesting because all throughout these years, CHED has functioned as a mere stamp pad for the approval of tuition hikes,” Ridon added.
Licuanan, in a media statement released Thursday, said that “it is too early in the year to be able to determine the number of higher education institutions that will increase tuition and/or other school fees,” explaining that HEIs still have until April 1 to submit their fee hike proposals to CHED.
Licuanan made the statement in response to the results of Kabataan Partylist and the National Union of Students of the Philippines’ independent monitoring on schools that plan to increase tuition and other school fees next year, which the youth groups estimate to reach 400. The information has already sparked protests in various parts of the country, with student unions and councils also gearing for large anti-tuition hike walkouts on Feb. 24 and March 11.
Ridon was joined by Arah Elago, NUSP national president and Kabataan first nominee, in lambasting Licuanan.
Elago hit out at CHED for its “passive wait-and-see approach” towards the impending tuition increase.
Under CHED rules, HEIs need to conduct local consultations among students and other concerned parties in the month of February before the said schools can apply for higher tuition rates, Elago said.
The problem, however, is that CHED is “totally blind” during the process of consultations, which many student councils describe as bogus, Elago explained.
“Chairperson Licuanan is telling students: don’t protest yet, because the schools have yet to submit their tuition hike proposals. Yet CHED’s passive wait-and-see approach towards tuition hikes is part of the problem. CHED doesn’t know what’s really happening inside schools during the consultation period – it doesn’t even have its own oversight committee to supervise this process. In truth, CHED isn’t functioning as a regulatory body, and it has – for the longest time – surrendered its constitutional duty to regulate and supervise higher education institutions,” Elago said.
Ridon maintained that at the heart of the issue of annual tuition hikes is the government’s policy of deregulation.
“At the heart of this issue is the extant policy of education deregulation – or that of allowing private school owners to set their own rates. It’s an act of surrender on part of the national government, since it lets private groups and individuals set how much education should really cost,” Ridon explained.
The League of Filipino Students weighed in on the issue and lambasted the Aquino administration for adopting flawed policies that permitted schools to abritrarily raise tuition and other fees.
A study released by Kabataan party list last week showed that both tuition rates and profits of private universities have almost doubled under Aquino’s five years as president.
“Despite the soaring rates of tuition and other school fees in the country, Licuanan still has the gall to call student protests “premature.” Protests against fee hikes will always be justified, especially under a regime that has worsened the education system and the plight of Filipino students,” Elago said. With Sandy Araneta