GMA halts tuition increase in state schools

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — PRESIDENT Arroyo has announced that all state universities and colleges will not increase their tuition this year as she asked the Commission on Higher Education to appeal to private tertiary schools to make a similar decision.

Noting the global spike in prices of food and oil, Mrs. Arroyo urged private universities and colleges to reconsider their plans to raise tuition and other fees for this school year.

“At an average of P450 per unit, parents are spending about P10,000 for their children with 21-unit loads in college, an expense that eats up a sizable amount of the hard-earned income of ordinary Filipinos,” she said during yesterday’s command conference at the Education Department in Pasig City.

“Hence, any adjustment in school fees is an added burden most of them can ill afford during these belt-tightening times. The last thing that our parents need at this point is another round of adjustment in tuition and other school expenses,” the President added.

There are over 100 state-owned universities and colleges nationwide. Most private tertiary schools have already signified their intention to increase their tuition and other fees.

In her talk, Mrs. Arroyo also underscored the need to reverse the drop-out rate among college students whose parents could barely afford to keep up with yearly tuition increases.

“For us to keep producing highly skilled graduates who will lead our country in its leap to First-World status in a decade’s time, government must reverse the drop-out rate and set off an environment conducive for our parents to provide quality tertiary education for their children, be it in private institutions or in our state universities and colleges,” the President said.

“With this in mind, I am directing the Commission on Higher Education to put off any increase in tuition for state universities and colleges this coming school year 2008-2009. I am also directing [the commission] to communicate my appeal to private institutions to reconsider and freeze plans to increase tuition and other fees this school year.”

Mrs. Arroyo also ordered the commission to study the extent of compliance by schools with the law on tuition increases over the years.

Under the law, administrators should set aside 70 percent of the new fees for salaries and other benefits of faculty and non-academic personnel and 20 percent for modernizing facilities.

“Although government cannot deny private business the fruits of its legitimate investments, especially in lofty causes such as higher learning, it must nonetheless balance this interest with that of the rest of our people who regard college education the lasting legacy to future generations,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

“Moreover, this move is in keeping with the constitutional mandate for the state to protect and promote the right of its citizens to quality education for all from the primary to tertiary levels.”

At the same conference, the President ordered the Education Department to ensure a smooth opening of classes on June 10.

Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said the coming school year would bring in a total of 21.66 million students—18.81 million to public schools and 2.85 million to private schools.