Student groups hold first day protest against anti-student policies

by Victoria Uy

Students of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman welcomed the first day of classes with calls against neoliberal attacks on education in a protest action at the Palma Hall Lobby, Aug. 9.

Among those raised in the mobilization were problems due to limited class slots, the Socialized Tuition System (STS), and the formerly strict implementation of the No Late Payment policy.

“Pinaglalaban-laban tayo ng UP administration sa kulang-kulang na student services na dapat natatamasa natin,” said Josiah Hiponia, chairperson of the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP), regarding the limited slots for General Education (GE) subjects.

During the enlistment period, certain colleges begun limiting the number of students they accepted into their respective departments.

Since Aug. 2, the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP) has exclusively offered the remaining slots for SSP GE courses to students graduating in the first semester.

“Nilimitahan ng college administration ang mga GE courses upang ibigay lamang sa mga mag-aaral na graduating this semester,” said CSSP Student Council Councilor Allyson Maraon, explaining that non-graduating students are at a higher risk of not graduating on time due to failure to obtain SSP GE courses.

“Ito ay isang manipestasyon ng isang neoliberal na polisiya na pinakita ng administrasyong Aquino. Dahil dito nagkaroon ng kaunting pagpasok ng mga freshmen, kasabay nito ang paglimita ng administrasyon sa mga kayang ibigay na classes ng CSSP,” he added.

On the No Late Payment policy issued by the UP administration on July 12, Hiponia explained that students are forced to apply for a tuition loan with 6 percent interest every year.

The then No Late Payment policy prohibited late payments beyond Aug. 5 for registration, dropping, leave of absence (LOA), and residency.

However, as a result of the dialogue between Chancellor Michael Tan and the University Student Council (USC) on Aug. 2, late payments were allowed, provided that students file an appeal endorsed by the College Secretary to the Office of the Chancellor.

Student groups also protested the unavailability of education to those with unsettled delinquencies, and Kenneth Quidem from the College of Fine Arts is one of them.

Quidem, a graduating student of industrial design, was forced to file for LOA due to his tuition loans.

Before studying in UP, Quidem graduated with a degree in information technology in Informatics International College in Cainta, Rizal. Although students pursuing second degree are not qualified to apply for STS, he still appealed for a discount and was granted a full scholarship with stipend on his second degree for two years.

“Dumaan ako sa proseso, wala akong [mga] koneksyon sa UP, at lagi akong sumusulat para mapagpatuloy ang pag-aaral ko,” he stated.

However, during Quidem’s last STS appeal, his full scholarship was dismissed as an oversight, and he was asked to reimburse four semesters’ worth of tuition fee with no discount and monthly stipend, which amounted to more than P120 thousand.

Because of this, Quidem will not be able to receive his diploma unless he pays his accountabilities.

“Nag-LOA na ako para lang maiwasan ko yung mga utang na sinasabi nila. Ngayon problemado ako kasi gusto kong tapusin yung bachelor(‘s degree) ko kaso wala na talagang support,” Quidem added.

Mobilizations calling for accountability and action from the administration are not going to stop soon, however.

“It is time to reclaim the university of the people. Sama-sama tayong lumaban. Sama-sama nating ipanawagan ang libre at dekalidad na edukasyon,” Hiponia said.

Another protest action will be staged by student groups during the Board of Regents meeting on Aug. 25. #

 

UP CMC faces 82% enrollment drop due to K to 12

By Faith Esther Brown and Meryll Phae Red Carao / Infographics: Renee Cuisia

(Published in TNP Editorial Issue 1, Year 38 on Aug. 6, 2016)

A decline in freshman admission in the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Mass Communication (CMC) followed this year’s implementation of the K to 12 program, which compels students to attend additional two years of senior high school.

This semester, CMC welcomed only 24 freshmen, about five times lower than the usual over a hundred CMC freshmen from the past couple of years.

Data from the CMC administration showed that in 2014 and 2015, CMC took in 135 and 133 UP College Admission Test (UPCAT) passers respectively.

However, CMC College Secretary Teresa Congjuico said the drop was unalarming, despite University of Sto. Tomas’s suspension of admission of freshmen for its journalism and legal management programs due to the low turnout of qualified applicants brought about by the K to 12 program.

“In other colleges, they have a problem in intake admissions. In our college, however, [the low number of freshmen] did not affect the population of the college because we always have a lot of shifting and transfer applicants to our college,” Congjuico said.

There is a total of 128 freshmen, shiftees and transferees (FSTs) this semester, 81 percent of which are shiftees and transferees to CMC.

This number, however, is fairly lower than the number of FSTs in the past years. In the first semesters of 2014 and 2015, there were 309 and 189 accepted FSTs respectively.

Although the K to 12 program did not necessarily deprive CMC of incoming students, CMC Student Council Vice Chairperson and FST Committee Head Jesse Doctor still acknowledges the program’s implications on the educational scheme of the Philippines.

The drop in freshman admission is not the only consequence of the K to 12 program, Doctor believes, for the large number of freshmen will not solve the existing dilemmas during the enrollment process.

Doctor also noted the K to 12 program’s role in the neoliberal educational system’s bigger framework.

“These aim to make a profit out of us students which in turn is supported by other policies such as the Socialized Tuition System (STS), other school fees, and the No Late Payment Policy,” he added.

Meanwhile, Congjuico mentioned another possible implication of the low number of FSTs–the subsequent drop in the number of offered classes in the university, which will force some professors to take a leave since they will have “no one to teach.”

However, Congjuico said it is unlikely to happen in CMC, citing the current rate of student intake.

“Perhaps, other colleges with GE courses will be affected but not our college because we offer disciplinal and highly specialized courses,” she added.

The effect of K to 12 on the university, though not explicitly exhibited, is still an underlying issue, Doctor said. One of the college student council’s visions is to junk said program, which the council sees is creating “cheap and docile labor” for foreign countries.

“[It] defeats the purpose of UP being a national university that aims to serve the people whose taxes paid for our education,” he stated. #

The Probability of Privilege

By Andrea Jobelle Adan

Three bold, capitalized words were all it took to plunge students into a gamble between money and knowledge.

On July 12, a memorandum was sent to college secretaries and coordinators, notifying them of the “no late payment” policy which applied not only to the registration but also to procedures such as dropping, residency, leave of absence, among others.

“These are not new rules,” said Dr. Marilyn Canta, University Registrar, citing the 2013 amendments to the Revised University Code which gave financially incapable students the chance to apply for a tuition loan.  

However, the University has been shrouded in confusion all the same, for only the few who had been granted both units and financial capacity breathed a little easier.

Unfortunately, third year Journalism student Luigi Naval is not one of them. With his sister abroad as his family’s sole provider, swift and sufficient money is a pipe dream.

“Before, [we] had enough for a partial tuition loan. Now, it’s all full tuition loans,” he said.

Still, the tides have gone rougher with Naval being left to provide for himself. Now that his sister has decided to study again, he must make do with the 60 pesos an hour he gets as a student assistant in the College of Mass Communication (CMC).

The then impending Aug. 5 payment deadline pushed him to apply for a loan early, despite having three units less than the advised 21 for his junior year.

Naval will have to look for 2000 pesos within the following week, since the additional three units are excluded from the loan.

“You have to apply early and allow time for the processing or for accidents. Last time, Chancy [Chancellor Michael Tan] was said to have been out of town,” he said. With tired eyes, he added, “What if you don’t get the loan? What do you do then?”

The uncertainty of the gamble never left him.

Defending the right to education

In a dialogue between the University Student Council (USC) and the Chancellor, deadlines for registration and payment have been moved to Aug. 10 and Sept. 7 respectively.

Despite these changes, various student groups retained their position against the policy, along with notorious eUP project, which aims to unify all UP units’ information systems.

“It [council efforts] provided immediate relief. But we cannot stop here,” said University Student Council Chairperson Bryle Leano. Replacing one repressive policy with another is easy, he said

On the first day of regular students’ registration, a holding room at the UP College of Mass Communication (CMC) rang with cheers after CMC Student Council Vice Chairperson Jesse Doctor distributed papers for the signature campaign against the policy.

The CMC Administration, meanwhile, remained objective on the issue.

Professor Teresa Congjuico said the college will follow whatever memorandum, in line or against the policy, that is given to them.

According to Canta, the memorandum aimed at a more efficient registration process. She explained how the administration’s working rhythm is broken by the “trickle down” of appeals.

Under the policy, those who have appealed for late payment will have their cases processed only during the cycles. Where before, students were free to enlist classes and pay beyond the registration period, now they must adhere to the set deadlines.

“Students can still apply for the loan if they are unable to pay now. The administration ensured the smallest interest possible,” she said.

Under the tuition loan policy, a student may apply for partial or full tuition loans. No interest is added if the loan is paid within four months.

“But there is more to what we’re being made to go through. There is the lack of slots, the dorm fees,” Leaño said, pertaining to the problems of the registration process.

Problems which, Student Regent Raoul Manuel believes, will only increase and intensify in semesters to come.

“We have to ready ourselves, ready the protests. The enrollment process in Diliman is set to get uglier,” Manuel said during a protest action at the AS lobby against the commercialization of education on Aug. 3.

Despite council projects campaigning against repressive policies on education, student councils are limited in their call against this problem without the united call of the student body, said Doctor.

It is in the unified assertion of rights, he reiterated, that cases like Naval’s will ever hope to reach the administration’s ear.

“What if you really don’t have the money to pay for your education?” Naval continued to ask, eyes wide yet aware of the growing odds against him.

But amidst these doubts, he retains hope that one day, through the student movement and the implementation of pro-student policies, quality education in UP will no longer be a privilege not only for him but for every Iskolar ng Bayan. #

Despite new system, long lines mar loan application

Despite the shift to the online filing of tuition loan applications this semester, students still had to fall in line outside the Office of Scholarships and Student Services (OSSS) during enrollment period.

By Kiersnerr Gerwin Tacadena

Despite the shift to the online filing of tuition loan applications this semester, students still had to fall in line outside the Office of Scholarships and Student Services (OSSS) during enrollment period.

OSSS Officer-in-Charge Aristeo Dacanay said filing online applications would help students save time during registration. However, this was not the case for Juan Resureccion, a fourth year student who regularly applies for a tuition loan.

Resureccion, not his real name, was one of the students who used the online module this semester.

Ang problema kasi, ang bilis nga nilang (OSSS) kumuha ng forms, pero ang bagal mag-process, three at a time lang (The problem is, they (OSSS) receive the forms faster, but the processing is slow – only three at a time),” he said.

Last Tuesday, Resureccion said he had to wait for over an hour to get his loan application processed.

Starting the second semester of academic year 2013-2014, UP Diliman implemented the online application of tuition loans, following a memorandum from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs (OVCSA).

The new system “aims to aid the students and helps the OSSS to further promote operational experience,” according to the Oct. 24 OVCSA memo.

The online tuition loan application module may be availed through a student's CRS account.
The online tuition loan application module may be availed through a student’s CRS account.

Students who plan to apply for loan may directly fill up a form through their Computerized Registration System (CRS) account. They shall print two sets of copies of the accomplished form, complete with their signatures and thumbmarks.

The forms must then be submitted to the Student Loans Office at the third floor of Vinzons Hall.

If his application will be approved, senior Resureccion will be given a loan amounting to 80 percent of this semester’s fees.

A tuition fee loan covers 70 percent of fees for first and second year students, 80 percent for third and fourth year students, and 85 percent for graduate students.

Students who wish to apply for a 100 percent tuition loan, however, must have their forms approved by the Chancellor before forwarding the request to the Student Loans Office, which requires a longer processing time.

Tuition payment deadline is set Nov. 15. All tuition fee loans must be settled by the last week of February, or one month before finals week.

Dacanay said the new loan application system came about after several meetings with the CRS Team, the online platform hosting the module, members of the Office of the University Registrar, and consultations with Chancellor Caesar Saloma.

The CRS Team cited the benefits of the online loans module.

“[The new module] expedites the loan process, saves time of the students, and staff can readily view the application because this is real-time, so they can right away review the application of students,” said a member of the CRS Team in an email interview.

Students can save time and effort of going to and waiting in the Student Loans Office, as the online module allows them to print the form at home so they can have it signed right away by their parents, the representative said.

Dacanay also expects the new module will make loan applications easier in upcoming semesters.

“The online tuition fee loan is only in its first run this second semester. It’s normal that we encounter problems in its implementation, but as we go along, we can learn from experience and could make it better the next time,” he said.

He added that the OSSS, together with the CRS Team, hopes to have a fully-automated loan application system once they develop a computerized database in the future.

Still, Resureccion said that the application system remains disorganized.

While nakakatulong siya kahit paano, kung sabog ang logistics at walang preparations on the part of the loan office, wala rin (Even if it helped in a way, if the logistics are disorganized and there are no preparations on the part of the loan office, nothing’s changed),” he said.

Ineligibility tagging alarms students: UP’s painful enrollment process

Ineligible students suffer the technical glitches in the registration process. ARA VILLENA

By Melissa Luz Lopez

Juan Alcanices, a transferee student from the Trinity University of Asia, was all set for the enrollment second semester this year. After all, he had already submitted his Bracket B certification form, his family’s income tax return and the vicinity map of their residence – requirements for the Socialized Tuition Financial Assistance Program (STFAP)

He was then caught by surprise when he was stopped from proceeding with the registration process come enrollment: he was tagged as ineligible by the Office of Scholarships and Student Services (OSSS).

The OSSS required him to submit his separated parents’ annulment papers to confirm that he belonged to Bracket B. “Makukuha ko yung Bracket B kasi separated yung parents ko, meaning mom ko lang yung nage-earn ng money. Mas kaunting money, mas kailangan ko ng support from the school (I will be placed at Bracket B because my parents are separated. Only my mom earns money for my school. With little money, the more I needed the support from the school),” he said.

At first, Alcanices was reluctant to submit the papers since he wanted to keep his family’s situation confidential, but he had to comply with the rules.

Submitting the documents was a hassle for Alcanices, since he was in a rush to enlist more subjects for his first stay in UP. There was a long line at the OSSS but only one computer was being used to entertain those students settling their ineligibilities, he said.

Alcanices’ story is not an isolated case. More students have experienced the rigor brought about by technical glitches and heavy requirements in the University’s enrollment process.

Ineligibility tagging

The revision of the Enrollment Eligibility, a module of the UP Diliman’s Computerized Registration System (CRS), stirred alarm to some students before enrollment for the second semester this year. The Enrollment Eligibility module was upgraded to let various UP offices tag students with ineligibilities through their CRS accounts.

By incorporating this module, the Office of the University Registrar (OUR) aims to go paperless by going online, according to University Registrar Dr. Evangeline Amor.

Amor described this module as an “accountability module,” where students are reminded of their accountabilities beforehand so they could settle their ineligibilities prior to the registration period.

A student is tagged ineligible if he or she failed to submit the Bracket B certification, pay the loan, among other reasons.

The purpose of tagging students is then to call their attention to settle their ineligibilities such as in the STFAP, assessment or in loans, said OSSS officer-in-charge Richard Philip Gonzalo.

“Tagging is one of the means to remind the students na meron silang accountability… Tina-tag ka para pumunta ka rito sa office to remind you na meron kang obligation to pay (Tagging is one of the means to remind the student that they have an accountability. We are tagging you so you could go to the office and be reminded that you have an obligation to pay),” Gonzalo added.

When tagged as ineligible, a student can participate in the CRS preenlistment, but is not allowed to proceed with the succeeding registration procedures unless he or she has cleared the ineligibility.

Loans and STFAP

Sara Bangayan, a second year Journalism student, came from a family of five. Her mother assists in her uncle’s business, earning P8,000 per month, while her father, an airport maintenance employee, rakes in P10,000 a month, exclusive of taxes.

Though both of her parents are working, their wages are not enough to meet all of their family’s financial needs, Bangayan said.

To be able to enroll in the first semester, Bangayan went to the OSSS for a student loan. But due to money constraints, she was not able to pay off the loan before the second semester enrollment.

For this, she was tagged as ineligible.

When she first saw her ineligibility, Bangayan was not able to pay at once for she did not have the money for it. She had to take her younger brother’s tuition to finally pay off the loan.

In a way, Bangayan finds the tagging system inconvenient to the students. “Kasi, ipinapamukha nila na napakairesponsable kong estudyante at hindi ako nagbabayad ng dues on time (They make it appear as if we are irresponsible students who cannot pay on time),” she said.

Bangayan saw her STFAP bracket as the reason she could not pay off her loan on time. She was placed in bracket C, but she believed that she deserves to be in bracket D.

Kasalanan ko bang hindi namin kayang magkapera kaagad kaya hindi rin ako nakakapagbayad on time? (Is it my fault we can’t afford to have the money to pay on time?)” she said.

In her case, Bangayan knew that she could only do one thing: pay on time. But her family’s financial situation could not let her do so. She believed that she will encounter the same problem in the future.

Recordkeeping lapses

For two semesters in a row, Mico Arevalo (not his real name) was tagged as ineligible by the Office of the University Registrar (OUR) for his Form 137, only to find out that his file was with the office all along.

He was tagged a day before enrollment, a big inconvenience on his part.

Arevalo is from the Asian Institute of Tourism (AIT). To clear his ineligibility, he had to go to and from OUR and AIT, the latter located at the other side of Commonwealth Avenue.

Naiinis ako kasi sila naman yung may kasalanan dun sa ineligibility ko. Inosente ako pero ako ang nahihirapan tuwing enrollment (I am frustrated because they are the ones responsible for my ineligibility. I am innocent but I suffer the consequence every enrollment),” he said.

Meanwhile, another lapse in recordkeeping was why Marlon Fernando, a Computer Science student, was tagged as ineligible.

Fernando was tagged by the College of Engineering for two ineligibilities.

First, he was tagged for a retention policy being implemented by his home college, where Engineering students need to sign on a signature sheet verifying that they passed at least three to four units of their subjects taken in the first semester. Fernando was able to settle this after signing on an online eligibility signup sheet created by the Engineering Student Council.

“It was less hassle since I don’t have to go to UP,” Fernando said.

But there was another ineligibility to be settled. He was also tagged for library accountability.

“I asked help from the UP Diliman CRS group what possible reasons why I was tagged (since I remember that I returned all books I borrowed) and where to settle the ineligibility,” Fernando recalled.

He was told to contact the Engineering Library II. Inquiring about his ineligibility, the librarian said that Fernando had not returned a borrowed book.

“They gave me the details for the accountability and fixed it urgently. A few minutes after the call, I was untagged,” Fernando said.

Careless mistake

Christian Desoloc and Gerald Caalam, both BS Computer Engineering sophomores, were tagged as ineligible for being “underassessed.” A student is underassessed if he or she failed to pay the tuition fee in full.

They later found out that there was a mistake in the assessment of their fees back in the first semester.

Desoloc’s assessed form 5 for the previous semester was short of P315.To settle this ineligibility, he had to go back and forth from the Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute, OUR, and Melchor Hall for payment and for untagging.

Medyo naiinis ako about this kasi pwede namang ma-avoid yung situation na ito… Kung naibigay ito nang maaga sa students then wala na sanang problema come enrollment given na na-accomplish ito (I am quite annoyed with this for it could have been avoided… If this information was given to students early, there should have been no problem come enrollment),” Desoloc said.

Meanwhile, Caalam recalled how frustrated he was when he saw his ineligibility. In the middle of his semestral break, he had to go to UP to pay P360 – the amount that was not included in his first semester fees.

According to Amor, the error happened at the college level for they are the ones in charge of the form 5 assessment.

Pre-enrollment panic

The revised Enrollment Eligibility module may have served as a cause of alarm for students, but the University Registrar believed students only need to adjust to this new system.

“Later on, when we get used to the system, force of habit na lang ito,” Amor said of the new module.

The entire purpose of the new module was to “streamline” the registration process, Amor explained.

The only major problem, Amor clarified, is the early launch of the new module which may have surprised the students. The new module did indicate what the students need to do to settle their ineligibility, she added.

“As it is, I think we have an intact registration system already, a working registration system that has become more efficient over the years,” Amor said.

But students’ comments to this new module were far from being an efficient system. The University Student Council Student Rights and Welfare committee head Soraya Escandor said the ineligibility tagging had only caused panic to the students during enrollment.

“That (tagging as ineligible) is a very heavy term as if (students cannot enroll anymore),” Escandor said.

Students who were tagged as ineligible also run out of time during registration period, for they had to settle their accountabilities before they could finally enroll, she said.

Escandor particularly singled out tagging according to the Bracket B certification, which she said was a wrong move by the administration to ensure efficiency in the STFAP.

Effective this school year, all freshmen and transferees are required to submit documents to accompany their STFAP Bracket B certification on or before September 16, according to a memorandum released by the Office of the Vice-President for Academic Affairs dated April 8. Gonzalo said students who failed to submit their Bracket B certification will be immediately placed at Bracket A.

Bakit ba kailangan ng bracket B certification? It’s as if na you’re assuming that the freshmen coming to UP come from bracket B and bracket A families. Wala ka na sa premise na you’re catering to the poorest of the poor (Why is there a need for the Bracket B certification? It’s as if you’re assuming that freshmen in UP come from Brackets A and B families. There is no more premise of catering to the poorest of the poor),” Escandor said.