A yearly problem
For parents of school-age youngsters, June, when school opens, is the cruelest month.
Education is a fundamental part of the Filipino dream, but the yearly rise in tuition and other school fees has transformed that dream into a seasonal nightmare.
In fact, the absence of a government cap on the tuition-increase rate led several preneed companies straight into bankruptcy and left their clients in the lurch. The unpredictable increases wrought havoc on the companies’ actuarial estimates and business projections, and shattered the dreams of thousands of parents who found their children’s college plans suddenly worthless.
This school year’s version of that cavalier government policy is the Department of Education’s recent approval of tuition increase in 1,246 private schools from the kindergarten to high school levels, with the requested increase ranging from 1.25 to 29 percent.
The news comes just over a week after the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) allowed 313 private universities and colleges to raise tuition and other school fees by an average of 6.48 percent in the coming school year.
For tuition alone, the average increase approved by the CHEd is 6.17 percent, or P29.86 per unit; for other school fees, the average increase is 6.55 percent or P135.60.
It gives some parents small comfort to know that these figures are lower compared to last year’s increase of P35.66 per unit, or 8.13 percent, for tuition, and P141.55, or 7.97 percent, for other school fees.
The CHEd said it balanced the school’s need to survive with the parents’ capacity to pay, and approved the increase in fees by taking into account certain factors such as the inflation rate, the school’s financial standing, the financial capacity of most students, the school’s track record in quality education, consultation with parents and students, and the impact of calamities. That last consideration explains why Region 8, or Eastern Visayas, the region hardest hit by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in 2013, was spared the increase.
Meanwhile, the DepEd cited its 2010 revised manual of regulations for private schools to explain why it allowed the increase. Aside from submitting financial statements, tax returns and other documents, schools applying for a tuition increase must also make sure that 70 percent of the projected increase would go to the salaries of teaching and nonteaching personnel.
The rest of the increase must be used to improve school facilities, student assistance and extension services, with the expected return of investment well within 12 percent of the proposed hike, according to the DepEd manual.
But the questions beg to be asked: Do tuition increases actually go where they should? Who’s checking that those 313 colleges and universities, as well as the 1,246 private schools are following the DepEd guidelines?
Given that more and more private-school teachers are transferring to public schools to get better pay, one wonders if indeed 70 percent of that almost-yearly increase finds its way to where it should. Or are the increases simply lining the pockets of school owners? Who’s to know, right?
Certainly, like most businesses, schools need a healthy profit margin for investors to keep them going. But surely, more than just a business enterprise, private schools are a valuable partner of the government in nation-building, shaping as they do the values of the young who enter their classrooms.
The lessons children learn and for which their parents pay the steep price must go beyond what are sadly obvious in the yearly tuition increases: one, that Filipinos would willingly, if grimly, pay for good education, even working overseas to put children and young relatives through school, and two, that teachers, whose sterling sacrifice make for quality learning, can be so easily shortchanged by a system often left to regulate itself.
With no corresponding increase in their salaries to cover the rise in their children’s tuition, some parents are crying for relief. Supporting a bill on tax discounts for parents sending up to four children to school should help. And so would Sen. Miriam Santiago’s call for an inquiry into how these regular tuition increases are being put to use.
Because more than the brick-and-mortar structures that house those academic skills, teachers—well-trained, amply compensated and highly motivated—make the difference. Good ones are worth the yearly increase and, given their passion for sticking to an underpaid, underappreciated profession, might even make for a good bargain.
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