House threatens to put cap on tuition increases

Published by rudy Date posted on March 9, 2009

CONGRESS will invoke its oversight powers to stop private schools from unduly increasing tuition at this time of crisis, an official said yesterday.

Speaker Prospero Nograles announced the plan after 250 out of the 1,726 private universities and colleges nationwide said they were raising tuition for school year 2009-2010.

The House would also consider regulating tuition by creating a Tuition Regulatory Board as proposed in three bills that congressmen were trying to consolidate into one, Nograles said.

Congressmen would also look into proposals to set a cap on tuition increases equivalent to 6 percent of a school’s return on investment.

“Public welfare is paramount. We will exercise our oversight powers to see to it that our laws are not circumvented by greed,” Nograles said in a statement.

He said Congress could also compel school owners to open their financial balance sheets to show that their tuition increases were justified.

Nograles also urged education officials to examine all applications for tuition increases to make sure those were lawful and set aside a hefty portion for teachers’ salaries.

“It’s just inappropriate. Increasing tuition at this time of global economic recession is not the smartest move,” Nograles said.

He said there were moves in the House to call for an inquiry into the tuition increases.

Earlier, Catholic Educators Association of the Philippines program officer Ines Basaen said private colleges and universities could increase tuition provided 70 percent of the proposed increase went to pay teachers.

Chairman Emmanuel Angeles of the Commission on Higher Education said that for school year 2008-2009, at least 383 universities and colleges raised fees. That was fewer than the 426 schools that raised tuition in 2007-2008 and 472 in 2006-2007.

The tuition in private institutions is P500 to P3,000 per unit for a baccalaureate degree, while government-run institutions like the Polytechnic University of the Philippines charge P12 per unit for a baccalaureate degree, P100 for masteral courses, and P100 per unit for the doctorate degree.

The University of the Philippines charges P500 per unit for a baccalaureate degree, and P1,000 per unit for masteral and doctorate programs.

Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla, vice chairman of the panel, said his panel was now consolidating House Bill 277 authored by Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio, HB 1274 filed by Rep. Teodoro Casiño, and HB 1407 by Rep. Judy Syjuco, through a technical working group that would meet even during recess.

As proposed by Casiño, the “Private School Fee Regulatory Board shall be under the Office of the President and is mandated to monitor and ensure the correct determination, collection and use of all fees charged by educational institutions from their students as well as any other issue relating to the proper allocation and disbursement of such fees.”

The board would have a chairman, a vice chairman and six directors, including two representatives from the youth sector, all of whom were to be appointed by the President.

The same measure would private schools to increase tuition based on a reasonable return on investment of not more than 6 percent.

The board would be given the power to conduct public hearings on any petition for tuition increases by private and public institutions or on any complaint filed before it regarding improper allocation of school fees.

The measure also empowers the board to impose sanctions, including the cancellation of License to Operate or Certificates of Accreditation issued by the Education Department, the Commission on Higher Education, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

Last Feb. 5, Angeles issued a memorandum calling on 1,726 private colleges and universities to freeze their tuition increases, although it had been more of an appeal because private institutions operations have been deregulated.

Of the private institutions, 244 colleges and 32 universities are in Metro Manila.

There are 203 government-run institutions of higher learning nationwide, including eight state colleges and universities, 12 local universities and four colleges. – Roy Pelovello, Philippine Star

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