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.
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.
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.
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.
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.