With the opening of classes drawing near, Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian has filed a bill that would mandate the Commission on Higher Education or CHED to veto “exorbitant” and “inadequately justified” school fees.
In his House Bill No. 5674, Gatchalian sought to expand CHED’s powers to regulate tuition and other fees, requiring the agency to “either disapprove the increase or lower the proposed amount” in cases where a higher education institution or HEI attempts to impose “exorbitant, unreasonable, or inadequately justified increase in fees.”
His proposed legislation also seeks to create an auditing body in CHED that will monitor the HEIs’ where the proceeds from the school fees hike were spent.
In CHED Memorandum Order No. 3, series of 2012, proceeds should be allocated as follows: 70 percent for increase of salaries and other benefits of teaching and non-teaching personnel, at least 20 percent for improvement of facilities and other costs of operation.
“Those found to be non-compliant with the guidelines on the allocation of proceeds from tuition and other fees hikes shall be banned from increasing fees for three years, from the date when they were found to be non-compliant,” Gatchalian stated in his proposed bill.
Gatchalian’s proposed measure would also pave the way for the President’s appointment of a student commissioner to the body to make sure that “primary stakeholders in higher education have a voice in crafting policies and promulgating regulations in pursuance of the Commission’s mandate.”
The student commissioner, who shall serve a one-year term without reappointment, must be 30 years old or below and enrolled in any undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate degree in an HEI in the country.
The student commissioner must also be an incumbent or a former student representative to his/her school’s board of regents and have “unimpeachable integrity” and “impressive track record in promoting students’ rights and welfare.”
To ensure that school fees will still be affordable, Gatchalian said the prevalent inflation rates will be used as a benchmark.
“Any proposed fee increase in excess of the prevalent inflation rates shall be presumed to be unreasonable and must be sufficiently justified by the institution of higher learning proposing the said increase,” said the representative of Valenzuela City’s 1st district.
In filing the bill, Gatchalian, a majority member of the House committee on higher and technical education, explained: “Unfortunately, the cost of completing a college degree is increasing with each passing year, with about 287 private HEIs being allowed to increase their tuition rates of up to 67 percent.”
Gatchalian said his proposed bill is aimed at ensuring equitable access to quality education for Filipinos from all walks of life and this is a solemn obligation imposed upon the State by the Constitution.
“Considering the current status of affairs, this is an obligation that the State has failed to adequately perform in the context of tertiary education,” the lawmaker deplored.
Gatchalian’s bill regulating tuition increases will benefit students coming from poor families but who deserve to be in college to earn a degree.
At least two college students have committed suicide for the past two years due to their parents’ inability to pay their college tuition.
Last month, a respiratory therapy freshman named Rosanna Sanfuego from the Cagayan State University reportedly hanged herself at home over unpaid school fees. The University has been imposing a “no tuition policy” since 2009 but had been collecting miscellaneous and other school fees amounting from P2,000 to P4,000.
In 2013, 16-year-old Kristel Tejada, a behavioral science freshman at the University of the Philippine in Manila, killed herself by drinking silver cleaner after she was forced to file a leave of absence for owing P10,000 in tuition fees. (Monica Cantilero)