On the ‘Revised STFAP Scheme’
Office of the Student Regent
3 June 2012
Students from different UP units raised concerns again as they were welcomed by the issue of ‘Bracket B certification/Revised STFAP scheme’ as registration for the 1st semester for AY 2012-2013 starts. This was the same issue that has already been raised to the UP administration last year and favorably resolved thru a dialogue with the UP administration headed by President Alfredo Pascual, the Office of the Student Regent and sectoral representatives from UP Kilos Na.
Adjusting the Default Bracket
While implementation was deferred last year, this revised STFAP scheme shifts the “default bracket” or “base tuition” from Bracket B (P1000/unit for Diliman, Los Banos and Manila; P600 for Baguio, Visayas and Mindanao) to Bracket A (P1,500/unit for Diliman, Los Banos and Manila; P1000 for Baguio, Visayas and Mindanao). This means that students who did not apply to or failed the STFAP will have to pay the tuition fee for the highest bracket (Bracket A). The old scheme put everyone into Bracket B, automatically paying P1000 or P600 per credit unit, unless they apply for a lower bracket or they declare that they belong to the highest bracket. With the new scheme, students wishing to belong to Bracket B or to pay the supposed “base tuition”, have to submit a notarized Bracket B certification signed by the parent and the student together with a vicinity map of their residence, plus other documents* to the office concerned. Failure to submit the certification and other supplementary documents will put the students in Bracket A. This new process was observed in almost all UP units including regional.
While it has been the position of the Office of the Student Regent and the systemwide-wide alliance of UP student councils KASAMA sa UP that there is a policy change with regards to STFAP especially the change in “default bracket,” it has been the position of the UP administration that there hasn’t been a change in the “default bracketing” because there is no “default bracket” or “base tuition” being followed in the university. The administration even stated that the idea of a “default bracket” only came up because there are no requirements needed to belong to this bracket; therefore many assumed that it is the “default bracket”. However, this position of the UP administration is inconsistent with the policy reports of then-UP President Emerlinda Roman (De Dios Report) used to propose the tuition and other fees increase (TOFI) including the changes in STFAP during 2006.
Is STFAP Working?
Aside from what was aforementioned, President Pascual asserts that there is no new scheme but rather a stricter implementation of STFAP to ensure that students will be honest about their socio-economic standing and that more financial aid applicant will be accommodated. However, the first phase of Office of the Student Regent’s STFAP Review and data from the Philippine Collegian proved otherwise.
In a study done by the Philippine Collegian, 1 out of 10 STFAP applicants during the year 2011 was dissatisfied with their approved bracket and appealed to be put into a lower bracket. Statistics also show that STFAP has consistently increased the number of students in Bracket A and decreased the number of students in lower brackets (Bracket D, E). Worse, even those who were put into lower brackets have to apply for a tuition loan (2out of 3).
On another note, almost all respondents in the first phase of the STFAP Review cited inconsistencies in the requirements and processes and difficulties and expensiveness in the processing of documents required.
Position & Analysis
It is the opinion and the stand of the Office of the Student Regent guided by the reports of the students in the different UP units that the new scheme/policy changes in STFAP effectively changed/raised the “default bracket” resulting to an increased “base tuition/tuition fee.” The high cost of UP education has always been the primary concern of the students as well as the general public weakening democratic access and compromising the public character of the university.
It is also in the opinion of the OSR guided by policy studies as well as direct surveys and inputs from the students that STFAP fails to meet its objective of financially aiding and assisting the students to cope with the high cost of UP education. STFAP has always served against the interest of the students acting as a smokescreen for increases in tuition, justifying the systematic and continuous abandonment of the government to its responsibility to provide enough subsidies, and transforming a public university into an income-generating institution that relies heavily on its own income.
In the immediate, the UP administration must defer the implementation of this new scheme pending policy consultation with other stakeholders as well as a comprehensive review of the STFAP taking into consideration the results of the studies of the different student institutions.
In the long-run, it is crucial that UP must understand that policies such as STFAP, utilization of idle assets, public-private partnerships and other income-generating schemes fit into the long-standing policy of the past and present governments to subscribe to the neoliberal policy of deregulating the education sector- abandoning the responsibility to provide subsidy and privatizing educational institutions.
In the end, the UP community must consider ‘enacting more systemic changes in its policies in order to concretely address the issues of democratic access but it should be done within the frame of demanding greater state support to UP; not through increased student fees in whatever form or guise.’ The pledge of the UP administration to strengthen the public character and public service nature of the university will always get full support from the ranks of the students in the context of democratic governance and uncompromised rights, interests and welfare of the students.
Statements and Reports from Student Regent Krissy Conti and UP Kilos Na
KASAMA sa UP
*Raised during the 1280th BOR meeting, 4 June 2012**Meeting with President Alfredo Pascual, 5 June 2012- updates to follow