MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives warned private schools, colleges and universities yesterday that it will freeze tuition for three years if they increase their fees this year.
Speaker Prospero Nograles said he would support the proposal of Rep. Teodoro Casiño of the party-list group Bayan Muna for a “legislated three-year freeze on tuition” if school owners “will refuse to heed the clamor for a tuition increase moratorium.”
“We can only appeal for compassion at this time, but I am keeping an open mind for this option of a legislated three-year moratorium on increases in school fees,” he said.
He joined concerned colleagues, parents and students in pleading with private and public schools not to collect additional tuition this coming school year and until the global economic crisis is over.
“This is the worst time to increase tuition fees. A lot of people are now losing their jobs and can hardly send their children to school so I strongly suggest that school owners and administrators should call off any plan to increase fees as part of their contribution in the effort to mitigate the effects of the global financial crisis,” he said.
Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara aired a similar appeal.
“Any tuition fee hike at this time will only aggravate the dire situation that most parents are experiencing right now,” he said.
He said he has information that this early, more than a dozen schools plan to increase tuition.
Nograles said school owners who decide to collect additional fees despite the crisis would face interrogation by congressmen.
He said the House would not hesitate to call them to explain such decision.
“It is inherent for Congress to exercise its oversight powers when it involves public interest which includes tuition fee increase. The House of the People will not hesitate to use this power to find justification on any increase in tuition and other school fees,” he said.
Angara, on the other hand, said the House should look into where proceeds from previous tuition increases were used.
He said the law required that 70 percent of new fees be set aside for salaries and other benefits of faculty and non-academic personnel and 20 percent for modernization of school facilities.
He said congressmen should find out if the required allocations were followed.
At the same time, Nograles, who has over 4,000 scholars in his district, appealed to his peers in Congress to expand their scholarship programs to avert a further increase in the number of students who cannot enroll this school year.
“This possibility of tuition fee increase this coming school year has far-reaching effects on the country’s social ills, including peace and order. We should do everything to help those who are willing to finish their studies but cannot afford paying their tuition fees,” he said.- Jess Diaz, Philippine Star