Militant groups on Tuesday urged President Benigno Aquino III to issue an executive order that will freeze any impending increase in tuition and other fees in the next academic year.
Party-list Rep. Terry Ridon of Kabataan and the League of Filipino Students made the urging after an independent monitoring made by the youth party showed that about 400 colleges and universities are set to increase tuition and other school fees for the next school year.
The call for tuition freeze came after a Bicol student killed himself, the fifth education crisis-related suicide under the Aquino administration which the militants blamed for commercializing education.
Militant students trooped to the Commission on Higher Education on Tuesday pressing for a stop to the impending tuition hike and demanding justice for all victims of commercialized education.
The protesters hurled red paint on the gates of Ched to illustrate that “the hands of Aquino and Ched are stained with blood.”
Ridon said that ordering a blanket tuition moratorium is the least this inutile government could do to help ease the burden of students and their parents. “It is doable, it is possible,” he said.
Ridon, a member of the Makabayan Bloc, noted that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did the same thing back in 2008, though the order was issued well into the enrollment period and only covered state schools. Arroyo’s order also contained an appeal to private schools not to increase tuition that year.
“Aquino has not done anything in his almost six years in office to stop tuition and other fee increases. In fact, college unaffordability reached new heights under this presidency. When he stepped into Malacañang in June 2010, students shelled out an average P30,000-P50,000 on tuition yearly. This amount has already doubled to P60,000-P100,000 in 2015,” Ridon said.
Ridon also noted that under Aquino, the annual profits of some of the most prominent universities have almost doubled. “In fact, we have schools like the Far Eastern University and the University of the East that are included in the Top 1,000 corporations in 2015.”
“Issuing an executive order to freeze tuition hikes is an immediate relief for students. However, we must emphasize that this is not the only thing the Aquino administration can do. If the government really has the heart to address the growing economic burden posted by soaring tuition rates, then it needs to address the extant policy of education deregulation,” LFS chairman Charisse Bañez said. Ridon maintained that at the heart of the issue of annual tuition hikes is the government’s policy of deregulation contained in the Education Act of 1982, which allows private school owners to set their own tuition rates.