Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

PUP Tuition Fee Increase

Posted by butalidnl on 21 March 2010

Students at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) walked out of their classes on 19 March to protest the proposal to raise tuition fees by almost 1700% – from PhP 12/unit at present, to PhP 200/unit next school year. The present tuition fee is quite low, being the cheapest of all state universities in the country.  The proposed increase will bring the cost per semester from PhP 300 or so to more than PhP 5000 for the students from low-income families.   Students should be able to afford this, people could say, especially since tuition in private universities are in the PhP 20,000/semester or higher range.

Despite this, I think that the fee increase is not right, for the following reasons:

Budget
The family budgets of the affected students were not made on the basis of the new, increased fees. There was probably no expectations of such a level of expense by the families involved. Granted that the amounts are relatively low, but they are still substantial for families whose family budgets are “just enough”, or even “less than just enough”. They didn’t bargain for this level of expenses, and if they knew that fees were going to be this high, they maybe would not have enrolled their child in PUP.  And in case they decided to continue for the couple of years under the increased fees, it would be a load that would be beyond the present means of many families.

Other Expenses
Add to this the fact that sending a student to college is expensive in itself, even in addition to the tuition fee. Miscellaneous or lab fees, depending on the course, are added to the tuition. And other expenses like school supplies, uniforms, fare to and from school, baon, and for some even lodging expenses have to be counted also.

And then there is the opportunity expense. If the student was not studying, perhaps he/she could be working to earn a living. This, the missed income for not working, and studying instead, is perhaps the biggest expense of all.

So, poor families are spending a fair enough share of the expenses for sending their children to college in PUP.  It is not that they are simply benefiting without contributing anything.

Need for Fees
At the same time, I understand that there is a need for state schools to charge a reasonable tuition fee. Even if it is a 1700% increase  over the previous fee level, PhP 200/unit sounds quite reasonable nevertheless.  I believe that state universities should be able to both collect the fees it needs, while at the same time still be open to having students from even the lowest socio-economic classes. This is better done on a per-student level, through a system of “waivers of fees”, or even scholarships for low-income students, than by a system where everybody is in effect subsidized. This way, it would make the system be able to handle more students, at less costs, while giving a good education to everybody, both the poor and the less poor.

And I think that any tuition fee increase should only be applicable to those still to enter PUP, starting with next year’s  freshman students, and that the fees be applied gradually as new students come in. This way, the family budget question is addressed, and nobody gets caught in the middle of a course when the fees skyrocket. Families would then decide, on the basis of all projected school expenses, whether or not to send their children to college.

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