Soon: P1,000 per unit in UP

If we don’t dare stop it now, time will come when the University of the Philippines will charge students P1,000 per unit, or drastically up from the current P225-300 per unit.

The proponents of this indecent proposal call themselves “UP Administration”. How they administer the university affairs is reflected in the Tuition and Other Fee Increase (TOFI) project. Simply put, the TOFI is an indictment of mismanagement by the UP Administration.

The mismanagement stems from a false appreciation of UP as a part of the nation. The UP Administration accepts hook, line and sinker the discredited line that UP must “take care of itself” and not expect or fight for greater state subsidy for the university. This mindset is a direct match to the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo neoliberal project of planned obsolescence on social services such as health, housing and education. Thus, we see low budgets for state hospitals, almost nil for mass housing and shameful amounts provided for public schools, including UP.

Who will benefit from TOFI? Who else but Mrs. Arroyo who would not have to allot more funds to UP, and the UP Administration who have forgotten that it is the State, not the students, who should provide funding for UP. For Mrs. Arroyo, she could then go around proudly saying how she has made UP “self-reliant”, a misnomer for “commercialized through high fees unaffordable to the common Filipino.”

There are those who stand up to defend the Arroyo government and the UP Administration and they do so by proclaiming the sham Iskolar ng Bayan program as UP students’ lifesaver. For all intents and purposes, the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program has long been discredited as a fake. It thrives on a large number of full-paying students in order to provide subsidies for “scholars” in Brackets 1 to 4. Since it was instituted, STFAP full scholars have never exceeded 30 percent of the total student population — meaning that more than half have been forced to pay full tuition in what is considered the country’s premiere state university. It seems that there is a pre-set percentage of STFAP applicants who will be assigned to Brackets 1 to 4,

Many genuinely poor students resort to obtaining loans or, worse, dropping out because STFAP anomalously misclassifies them to Brackets 5 to 8. Some even end up in Bracket 9 — with zero subsidies. As to the other basic student needs like books, housing and the like, we could only guess how many carabaos and family heirlooms have been sold just to pay for the current tuition and the attendant costs of UP education across all campuses.

Right now, the P225-P300 per unit tuition rate in UP is by far the highest among all state colleges and universities. To other incompetent administrators of state schools, this has become their own pathetic justification for TOFI in their areas of responsibility, much to the chagrin of students and their parents.

The UP Alumni Association came out recently with a resolution backing the TOFI of the UP Administration. They said it’s about time UP raised its tuition, citing the date when UP last implemented such a project. I do not care much about alumni associations except to pity them for being made to cough off money which should otherwise come from other proper sources. But UPAA’s position is utterly insane. These old geezers who went to UP as full scholars and before the horrible STFAP and who are mostly old and new rich have every right to parade their riches, but to even imply that, like private universities, UP should raise tuition every so often is just plain stupid.

Some activist alumni should drive home this point to the UPAA: UP is not a private university. It is a state university that demands state funding in order to fulfill its noble mission and mandate.

A newspaper columnist who occassionally parades himself as a radical or progressive also tackled this issue in a column. True to his anti-Left ideology, he said the anti-TOFI protests are now passe and that we needed a different tack in insisting on state subsidies. That tack is to explain how a larger budget for UP would serve the State’s current economic ideology (read: neoliberalism) and hope that the Arroyo administration would be convinced to give in and stop the TOFI.

That’s baloney. A big, smelly one at that. There is nothing leftist in demanding full state subsidy for UP. State subsidies on education are massive in many progressive capitalist countries. Ditto for the time when socialist governments were still around. Many states consider it a responsibility to provide for the largest possible appropriations for schools, colleges and universities – even going to the extent of providing private school students vouchers so they could pay for their education.

(If I may add, the UP Administration is not playing it fir and square vis-a-vis students. The old farts at Quezon Hall have for the longest time sabotaged the radical Philippine Collegian by witholding the publication funds paid for by the students. The hostaging of Collegian funds by the UP Diliman overseers have resulted in the non-publication of the weekly publication. Good thing, the editors led by Karl Castro have come out with the Rebel Collegian and downloadable editions on the net. Elsewhere, the UP Administration used fascist brutality to demolish the urban poor dwellings within the Diliman campus. So please do not raise any idea that we should console ourselves with the non-fact of free discussion of ideas within UP.)

The TOFI in UP boils down to our current concept of responsibility. The Arroyo government wants to abdicate its role in providing sufficient funds for the full operation of UP and the education of its many students, researchers and academic staff who also provide no small measure of technical assistance to the State. The UP Administration meanwhile has surrendered its mandate to protect UP from penury due to the State’s abdication of its role – it wants an easy way out, which is to extract needed money from students via the TOFI.

The students of UP and other state schools have a responsibility to make sure this scandal is brought to a close – that is, that the TOFI is defeated and the role of UP as the premiere state university is upheld by the UP Administration and by the State now being presided over by Mrs. Arroyo.

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