by Jeuel Barroso
The University of the Philippines (UP) presidential candidates laid down their plans for accessible UP education in a forum on the UP Presidential elections held in UP Diliman Cine Adarna, Oct. 13.
While a few nominees addressed the existing Socialized Tuition System (STS), others focused on issues of aspiring UP students, especially those in public high schools.
“I will support the Pascual administration’s ST reforms, but we have to add to it, re-examine the bracketing of STS, we can adjust it so it will be lighter for the students’ pockets,” UP Vice President for Public Affairs J. Prospero de Vera III said.
According to the vice president, this is as important as increasing the number of scholarships and grants for students by using earnings from UP operations. He added that UP also needs to have need-based funding, especially with the stipends, for poor students.
The STS is an economic capacity-based financial support from the national government that UP enrollees apply for via online registration annually.
In the previous enrolments, many students from various UP campuses struggled upon receiving higher brackets in the STS. Some even received their brackets weeks after the beginning of the semester.
Regarding the STS, Padilla-Concepcion said the UP administration has already raised the bracket cut-offs. However, if elected, she plans to review them again, especially when it comes to the lower bracket–the ones with the largest discount.
“We should increase the [students’] stipend because we still don’t have enough housing services,” she added. “We are still renovating them and we are going to multiply them inside the CUs (constituent units).”
Meanwhile, former UP Diliman (UPD) Chancellor Caesar Saloma pointed out the fact that 57 percent of UPCAT passers for UP Diliman are from the National Capital Region (NCR).
“This is not a sustainable trend,” Saloma said, “we have to make the other CUs equally attractive to students and teachers.”
“One way of approaching this is to start with a tuition-free education in other CUs,” he added.
However, College of Law Dean Danilo Concepcion said that the matriculation of poor students is already free and the real problem why these students could not enter UP is because “they could not pass the UPCAT.”
In the forum, Concepcion proposed the creation of a program that aims to raise the quality of the public school teaching so they can level with the quality of graduates from Metro Manila.
The former UP vice president for legal affairs plans to give student scholarships with a corresponding return service where these students will be deployed to teach to public schools.
“If the quality of those schools increase, we will then help them take the UPCAT by providing them with fare,” he said.
On the other hand, Department of Science and Technology Undersecretary Rowena Guevara pointed out that students could not take the UPCAT due to financial incapacity rather than pre-tertiary education,
According to Guevara, there are students who would like to take UPCAT but could not afford the testing fee. In addition to this, these students have no fare to travel to the testing centers to take their entrance exam.
The former College of Engineering dean plans to coordinate with Local Government Units (LGU) to assure that these financially incapable students would be able to go to the UPCAT examination areas and take their entrance exams.
“After the students pass, if they can’t afford the fare to go to UP, we will ensure that there will be funds that will bring them to the university; we will let them stay in dormitories while enrolling,” Guevara said
Guevara said what needs to be given are free dormitories, free food, and free jeepney rides to make sure that students can study without having financial problems.
Similarly, UP Diliman Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Benito M. Pacheco said support for students’ living conditions and living allowance is what UP lacks the most.
“Applicants’ recruitment and free tuition are already included; upon being able to enter UP, then what?” the former Chairperson of the College of Engineering said.
“We will make sure that UP has good working, living, and studying conditions if not direct support for daily expenses of students,” he added.
The next UP President will be elected by the Board of Regents in Feb. 2017.