Students ask CHED to defer tuition fee hikes as families struggle with inflation

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Students ask CHED to defer tuition fee hikes as families struggle with inflation
Student leaders from Metro Manila, including members of the National Union of Students of the Philippines, troop to the Commission on Higher Education to file petitions and position papers ahead of CHED’s April 28 deadline on tuition and other fee increase consultations.
National Union of Students of the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — As high inflation continues to pressure Filipinos into tightening their belts, a group of student leaders on Monday urged the Commission on Higher Education to impose a moratorium on increases on tuition and other fees for the next academic year.

Speaking at a press conference with other student leaders from universities in Metro Manila, a representative of the National Union of Students of the Philippines said that schools should implement a freeze on tuition hikes to give families a respite from the current "economic crisis."

Inflation eased to 7.6% in March from 8.6% in February as consumer price growth eased, as First Metro Investment Corp. and University of Asia and the Pacific Capital Markets Research forecast inflation for the year to be at around 6.3%. Analysts have said, however, that the Philippine economy may have grown less than 6% in the first quarter of 2023.

"We draw attention to the fact that most students come from families with limited financial resources, and that tuition hikes can further disadvantage those struggling to make ends meet," said NUSP spokesperson Joshua Aquiler.

The call comes days before CHED's April 28 deadline for private colleges and universities to conduct tuition and other fee increase (TOFI) consultations with their constituents for academic year 2023-2024. Meanwhile, CHED gave schools until June 1 to submit required documents.

CHED greenlighted its latest round of tuition and other fee increases in 2021. More than 50 private tertiary education institutions increased their tuition fees by 4.74% on average.

According to CHED data, the highest average tuition fee increase since 2017 took place in the academic year 2020-2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw a 12.06% increase nationwide.

 "Higher education has increasingly become inaccessible through the years. According to government data, the annual cost of higher education can reach up to P150,000—this is nowhere near the capacity of a Filipino household earning minimum wage,” Aquiler said. 

In determining whether hikes in tuition and other school fees are reasonable, CHED considers factors such as the inflation rate, the financial standing of the school, students’ financial capacity and the track record of the school, among others, according to CHED Memorandum No. 3 in 2012.

Aquiler and some student leaders from the University of Santo Tomas, Ateneo de Manila University and the University of the East (UE) Manila also submitted position papers to CHED to argue against tuition and other fee increases.

One of the position papers submitted was an eight-page document prepared by the student councils of UE's Manila and Caloocan campuses. 

According to a copy of the paper made available to the media, the student leaders argued against UE’s proposed 9.5% increase in tuition and other fees by highlighting the results of a survey they conducted among more than 130 respondents regarding fee hikes. 

Among others, the survey among UE students reportedly found that a majority (55.6%) disagreed with the 9.5% increase, "taking into consideration the quality of education that they are experiencing at present."

According to the student leaders, most students who answered the survey also answered that the 9.5% increase in fees would have "significant negative effects" on them as students, with several saying that this could deter them from re-enrolling next year.

The call against raising acacdemic fees comes as workers push for salary increases towards a living wage — one that would cover a family's basic needs and allow them a decent standard of living.

RELATED: Calabarzon workers want minimum wage at P750 to meet rising prices

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