An open letter to the students of National University and their parents and guardians

Warm greetings of peace and honor, as we salute the five core values of National University: compassion, trustworthiness, industriousness, respect, and resilience!

We are now faced with one of the biggest issues in education: tuition and other fees increase (TOFI), which will drastically impose an added hardship on us. This coming Academic Year 2014-2015, National University Administration is proposing a 3.5% to 10% increase on tuition. All miscellaneous fees are being proposed to be raised from 9% to 10%, including the illegally collected Developmental Fee.

On February 17, 2014, the National University Supreme Student Council (NUSSC) received an invitation dated February 13, 2014 from the Office of the Vice-President for Academic Affairs, Mr. Renato Carlos Ermita Jr. The letter invited the student council, together with the Dean of the Office of the Student Affairs, a parent representative, an employee representative, and the Chief Finance Officer to attend the Consultation Meeting on Matriculation and Other Fees for the AY 2014-2015. The date of the meeting was scheduled on February 28, 2014. However, the consultation meeting was then rescheduled to February 26, 2014, with the venue at the 4th floor of the main building of our university.

The notice of the meeting was sent 11 days before the consultation. This is a clear violation of Section 6.1 of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Memorandum Order No. 3 which states that “(n)otices must be sent to all parties involved and conspicuously posted on HEI’s Bulletin Boards at least fifteen days before the dates of consultation.” Since there were no notices posted on the bulletin boards, the provision was violated twice.

Moreover, Section 5.3 of CMO3 states that “the schools are called to include the information on the collection, duration, and justification on the charging of other school fees and other requirements of the consultation.” The notice of the meeting did not include the breakdown of proposed fees and justification, another violation committed by the National University administration. The student council, before the actual day of consultation, requested the administration to provide a copy of (1) the University Financial Statement and (2) a comparative schedule of tuition and other fees increase of the current AY and for the AY 2014-2015. The NU administration did not provide an audited financial report as requested by the student council. On this note, they violated Section 6.1 of CMO3 which states that “(t)he HEI’s latest audited financial statements shall be made available to authorized parties upon request.”

Throughout the consultation meeting, the administration discussed the increase. On the other hand, NUSSC cited arguments on why TOFI should not be implemented. The student council directly sent a letter to CHEDRO which states the violations the NU administration has committed. On February 27, NUSSC conducted a student consultation attended by concerned Nationalians who raised their concerns regarding TOFI.

Why is there a proposal of increasing tuition and other fees without transparency of the process, a right everyone deserves? Where do our fees go? The increasing cost of education clearly signifies that education is being transformed into a commodity. Furthermore, education has become a privilege instead of a right, since more and more students cannot afford the increasing rate of education. As a result, there are more drop-outs, and consequently, more out-of-school youth. It is enshrined in the 1987 Philippine Constitution that the government shall make education accessible at all levels. What is happening now? Education is being commercialized and higher fees are being shouldered by us and our parents, who belong to the farmers and workers sectors (which comprise 98% of our population).

Aside from the increase in miscellaneous fees, the NU administration also proposed a 9.95% increase (Php 79.00) for the incoming freshmen (from the previous Php 794.00 to Php 873.00). Section 3 of CMO3 provides that increases on the tuition and other school fees for the incoming freshmen are not covered by the guidelines of CMO3. It is clear that CHED shall not exercise reasonable supervision and regulation over the determination of their rates. However, there are no reasons and legal basis to not regulate and supervise the incoming freshmen’s tuition and school fees for these are still school fees subjected to CHED rules pursuant to Section 42 of the Education Act of 1982.

National University administration not just violated CMO3 but the democratic rights of some of our fellow Nationalians who keep on practicing their freedom of free speech, as well as the right to organize and to assemble. I have been experiencing repression from our administration myself. After I have participated in a mass action held at Mendiola, where I have practiced my freedom of expression (which includes the right to voice out my opinion without fear of censorship), I received a letter from the Discipline Office stating my violations (from the Student Handbook). However, the letter did not include the incident report that, according to them, has been the basis of my violations and possible sanctions. The letter also did not include the name(s) of the complainant. Indeed, there was no due process.

We, students and parents, should collectively act to stop the increase of tuition and other fees and to scrap the illegally collected Developmental Fee. National University envisions itself to become the leading educational institution committed to nation building, but how can it be achieved if the administration will keep on imposing higher fees without proper justification, reasonableness, and enhancement of education? We should rise together to call for the stoppage of tuition and other fees increase as prices of basic commodities, transportation fares, utilities, and other basic necessities and services also continue to increase. We should be part of campaigns and actions that will lead to the stoppage of this TOFI and to not tolerate billions of school earnings at the expense of students dropping out of school.

We should fight and rise for accessible quality education!

James Bryan Suarez Deang
Outgoing Editor-in-Chief of The National
Incoming National University Supreme Student Council