Solon bucks tuition hike

SENATOR Win Gatchalian urged private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to defer their tuition hike petitions while most families are struggling with financial woes since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country.

Some HEIs submitted their tuition hike applications even prior to the enforcement of lockdown measures, according to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

It also reported during a recent Senate panel hearing that the dip in enrollment among the country’s 3.5 million higher education students would further compel HEIs to hike tuition.

With the number of jobless Filipinos soaring to a record high of 7.3 million amid the pandemic, Gatchalian said that raising tuition would burden struggling families and aggravate the number of dropouts.

Gatchalian noted that budget constraints are affecting beneficiaries of CHED programs.

The CHED Merit Scholarship Program (CMSP) for example, which originally had 2,467 slots allotted for incoming college freshmen for Academic Year 2020 to 2021, will no longer accept new scholars.

“This is not the time to overburden our parents with high tuition lalo na ngayong panahong marami silang binabayaran. Hindi ngayon ang tamang panahon para dyan,” Gatchalian said at a video conference with student leaders.

The senator, however, acknowledged that if private HEIs are to defer tuition hikes, they need available resources to sustain operations, including the payment of faculty and staff.

According to Gatchalian, this adds urgency to the immediate passage of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Senate Bill No. 1564) or the Bayanihan Law 2.

Bayanihan 2.0 has a provision for a one-time cash assistance to affected teaching and non-teaching personnel in private basic and tertiary education institutions, as well as part-time faculty in state universities and colleges.

The proposed measure also mandates government financial institutions to have a loan program that will help education institutions implement blended learning. A condition for this loan is the non-implementation of tuition and other fees increase.

“Ang pagpapaliban sa pagtaas ng matrikula ay isang paraan upang matulungan natin ang mga pamilyang naapektuhan ang kabuhayan dahil sa pandemya. Kung maipapasa natin sa mga darating na araw ang panukalang Bayanihan to Recover As One Act, mabibigyan natin ng agarang tulong ang mga bumubuo sa sektor ng edukasyon,” Gatchalian said.

A special session of Congress during the sine die adjournment is needed to approve Bayanihan 2.0.