Education for profit

ANG BAYAN
7 March 2012
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In the coming school year (2012-2013), more than 300 private schools will be raising their tuition fees despite strong opposition from students and their parents. The fees will be raised by an average of 10-15%. Last year (2011-2012), 324 colleges and universities raised their fees by an average of P37 per unit.

A study made by student groups has revealed that current tuition fee rates in the Philippines have doubled since 2001. In the National Capital Region (NCR), tuition fees have practically tripled, or risen by an average of 143%. Students pay up to P2,000-3,000 per unit or P36,000-54,000 for an 18-unit semester in the bigger universities.

This amount does not include miscellaneous fees -- which were raised or even invented by school owners, expenses for uniforms and textbooks and other academic requirements. Many private universities follow the trimester system, which further raises expenses.

Yearly expenses come to P120,000 at the Far Eastern University (FEU) and the Philippine Women's University (PWU); up to P145,000 at the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU); P160,000 at Mapua Institute of Technology (MIT); and P198,000 at De La Salle University (DLSU).

Among the schools that will be hiking tuition fees in 2012 are FEU (5%), University of Sto. Tomas (UST, 19% for new enrollees), Centro Escolar University (CEU), University of the East (UE, 3-5%) and DLSU (3%) -- all of them universities that are already charging high fees.

These schools rake in millions like other private universities in selling supposedly quality education. In 2010, FEU earned P585 million, UE P300 million and CEU P248 million. In 2003-2009, CEU, UE and the University of Perpetual Help earned a combined income of P3.45 billion -- placing them in the Philippines' Top 1,000 Corporations.

In the face of the continuously skyrocketing cost of education, it is right for students to demand a moratorium on new tuition fee increases and a review of the previous years' hikes. They are well within their rights to assail capitalist school owners who rake in millions upon millions in selling a service that the Filipino youth should enjoy for free.

It is also correct to hold the Aquino regime accountable for abandoning the management of private schools to capitalist greed.

In February, student opposition grew more widespread to onerous and unjust tuition fee hikes. The National Union of Students of the Philippines -- the biggest alliance of student councils -- launched the Tuition Monitor to closely follow hikes in school fees. The Kabataan Partylist is likewise fighting within Congress for the regulation of private education. Progressive student organizations have pledged to launch mass actions against tuition fee hikes. The students' struggles are expected to heighten as school opens in June.

Opposition must also be stepped up against the reactionary government's reduction of the budget for education. Decades of neglect of the public school system has led to its privatization.

Even public universities and colleges have not been exempt from this trend. Yearly budgetary reductions have resulted in soaring tuition and other fees in public universities and colleges. For instance, in 2007-2009, tuition and other fees rose relentlessly at the University of the Philippines (UP) because of budgetary cuts. The same has happened at the Eulogio "Amang" Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (EARIST) and attempted at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP). To cope with the lack of funding, the government has been pressing public schools to enter into commercial contracts with big companies or sell land intended for academic expansion.

The youth and students reaped gains in launching mass actions last year against the Aquino regime's devious reductions in the education budget. In the course of these protests, the students were able to expose the real character of the new regime's "reforms" and the inutility of its poverty alleviation programs. Even as it gave doleouts to the "poorest of the poor" Filipino families, the regime slashed funds for the most basic services and gave freer rein to the private sector to profit from them.

As the struggle against tuition fee hikes and the commercialization of education advances as a whole, it must be put in the context of the struggle against an elitist, antipeople and foreign capitalist-oriented system. Alongside trampling on the youth's basic right to education, it prepares them for eventual exploitation by companies who are the ultimate beneficiaries of exorbitantly priced education.