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IN MY EYES: Free tuition fee?

Edward B. Antonio

The implementation of the free tuition fee in many government-operated colleges and universities through the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is one of the greatest legacies of the Duterte administration if it will be sustained through the years.

Education is perceived as the greatest factor in curbing out poverty.

One may not own a piece of land, but education can provide him with the necessities of life, even a piece of land someday.

But how “free” is tuition fee nowadays, fellas?

Here is a relevant story:

Bernie is the son of a poor farmer who enrolled last August as a 3rd year student in one of the bigger universities in Region I. His father, Marcelo, was super excited to see his son go to college in his 3rd year. One more year after this and soon, he would be having a college graduate son who can help him support the other kids in the family. Bernie is the oldest in a brood of 5, the youngest of which is only 4 years old.

Bernie is now a 3rd year engineering student. He always had passion for engineering. He said engineers can easily get employment here and abroad.

I have always wanted to be an engineer someday,” he said.

So, off he went to the university on enrollment time.

But he returned in the afternoon saying tuition fees are free but there are still many things to pay as in miscellaneous fees and “other fees.” All he thought was everything would be free.

When Marcelo scrutinized the list of miscellaneous fees to be paid (Bernie copied them from an acquaintance who got enrolled that same day), the following data appeared:

Athletic fee- P50; Medical/Dental Fee- P100; Library Fee- P100; ID Card- P150; ID validation- P10; Registration Fee- P100; Cultural Fee- P40; Guidance Fee- P100; Girl Scout of the Philippines (GSP) Membership Fee- P10; Inventory fee- P50; Maintenance Fee- P100; Computer fee- P300; Others- P710.

Mang Marcelo’s brow knitted in disbelief. His questions were:

Why the GSP membership fee when his son is a male? Should it not be BSP? Or should it not be optional? Why should he mandatorily pay for GSP membership fee if he doesn’t even know where all those GSP fees his kids have been paying since entering the grade school go?

Why the ID card is P150? Is it embedded with gold sawdust? Why is there still an ID validation of P10 if the card is already worth P150?

Registration fee is P100, is that the price of the paper documents to be filled up?

What is the maintenance fee all about? Isn’t there a maintenance and operating expenses allocation given by the government monthly or quarterly to the school?

Why the inventory fee? Will the students do the inventory? Is it not the job of the supply checker or officer who is being paid his monthly salary?

What is “others” that is worth P710?

Bernie said he heard there would still be many things to pay aside from the miscellaneous ones like organization shirts and printing, PTA projects, saranay etc.

When Bernie returned the following day to pay for these miscellaneous fees, Marcelo scrutinized the other fees that Bernie paid:

Student miscellaneous fee- P310; SCUAA fee- P100 and Quality Assurance fee- P200.

His new questions were:

Why still the SCUAA (State Colleges and Univer-sities Athletic Association) fee when there is already an athletic fee?

Why the quality assurance fee? What’s all this about? Is the university charging it to assure everyone that it is offering quality education? Should not the school deliver always the quality education every Filipino needs to become locally and globally competitive?

What are these student miscellaneous fees? Is it for “miscellaneous expenses” at the discretion of whom?

There is also a guidance fee although the counselor receives his monthly salary to do the job.

Last school year, Marcelo said that his son had asked him to pay for other things like: organization fees, handouts (sold by their teachers of the different subjects), contributions etc. etc. Last year, they were also told to save money for their college field trip when they reach 4th year which is around P10,000 per head!

Marcelo said he could not answer his own questions so he promised himself to ask them in the first PTA meeting that would be called by the university.

He had been hearing about some irregularities committed by some people out there. When he enrolled Bernie as a freshman student, he was sold a black slacks pant and a white polo at P600. When he bought some more of the uniform at a people’s mall, he discovered that black slacks college uniform with the same quality was only P200 and the white polo was P200, too!

It’s good that tuition fees are now free, fellas.

But Marcelo said it seems not as there are still many things to pay which he could not understand.

Hope Marcelo will get the satisfactory answers to his questions when he attends the 1st PTA meeting.

And that would be worth another column to write about in due time.#

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