3-year moratorium on tuition hike pushed

A GROUP of lawmakers is pushing for the imposition of a three-year moratorium on increases in tuition and other school fees to alleviate the burden of the already suffering people.

Reps. Neri Colmenares (Bayan Muna), Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna), Antonio Tinio (ACT Teachers) and Terry Ridon (Kabataan) authored House Bill 354, which prohibits educational institutions from implementing within the given period increases in tuition and other miscellaneous fees for specific actual services rendered to students such as medical and dental, library, laboratory, publication, athletic and other related services.

Under the bill, only schools that registered losses in the previous year may apply for an increase but such losses should be reflected in the complete annual financial statement, a copy of which shall be submitted together with the application for tuition hike.

Schools that will impose unilateral increases shall be punished with a fine of not less than P100,000 and not more than P500,000 or six-year imprisonment of their officials or both at the discretion of the court.

In filing the bill, Colmenares said Filipino families put premium on education that they forego other needs. However, they still cannot cope because of the “meteoric and unchecked rise” of school fees in private and public educational institutions.

Colmenares attributed the unabated tuition increase to the defects in the deregulated education and the lack of proper guidelines on school fee increases.

He said due to the deregulation policy mandated by Batas Pambansa 232, private education “has turned into a very profitable business” with the number of private higher education institutions increasing from 637 in 1991 to 1,523 in 2008.

“In fact, several private HEIs have been consistently included in the Top 1,000 corporations of the country. The top five school-corporations earned, in a span of six years, P15.43 billion in gross revenues and P3.45 billion in net income,” Colmenares said.

Zarate scored the concerned government agencies, which he said, have failed miserably to protect the public against schools that engage in profiteering activities.

“Increases in tuition, miscellaneous and other fees, some of which are collected redundantly, continue without regard to the suffering students and their parents,” Zarate said.

Zarate said the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) approved 354 or 78% of tuition increase petitions in 2013 while the state universities and colleges were mulling the possibility of imposing a tuition moratorium following the suicide of a cash-strapped University of the Philippines student.

“The average tuition hike, according to CHED, costs an additional P37.45 per unit or P561.75 per 15 units. The 8.5% average increase is almost three times higher than the prevailing inflation rate in the country,” Zarate said.

Tinio said this year, schools in the National Capital Region posted an average tuition hike of P64.04 or 6.79% per unit. Region 1 posted the highest increase at P34.10 per unit or 11.12%, Region II with P31.26 or 12.25% and Region V with P44.77 or 11.83%.

“On top of these are various miscellaneous and other school fees ranging from hundreds to thousands of pesos. These include exorbitant, redundant fees like power charges, instalment fee, copier fees and infrastructure maintenance fees,” Tinio said.

Ridon pushed for the immediate passage of the measure “to give our people some kind of relief, considering that they have yet to feel the promised social payback from higher taxes.”

“Considering how important education is for our people and how costly it has become for them, it will only be fair for government to ensure our citizen’s right to education by imposing a three year moratorium on all kinds of fee increases, whether tuition or other school fees,” Ridon said.

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