‘Hidden fees add to students’ woes’

Published by rudy Date posted on May 22, 2011
MANILA, Philippines—From separate energy and air-conditioning fees to Internet and e-mail fees, college enrollment charges seem to be getting longer and more burdensome.
A youth group monitoring colleges and universities nationwide yesterday noted that in addition to the rising tuition in private colleges and universities, miscellaneous fees have been padding education costs with “hidden fees” that the government has no power to regulate.
Kabataan party-list Representative Raymond Palatino said certain colleges and universities have been charging students “redundant and unnecessary fees,” taking advantage of government’s lack of authority to regulate miscellaneous charges.
“Library, medical, dental and guidance [counseling] fees might be reasonable…But it’s a different matter when you talk about air-con fees or energy fees for students who charge their cell phones in school,” Palatino said.
“Others have separate sports fees, athletic fees and—if your university has a UAAP team—a separate UAAP fee,” said the lawmaker at the close of an education forum at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, yesterday.
Loophole
While it is the approving authority over tuition hikes, the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) has no power to regulate or evaluate miscellaneous fee increases in private colleges and universities.
Such fees “can be regulated reasonably,” but CHEd Executive Director Julito Vitriolo said “it is not subject to consultation because the law only [covers] tuition.”
“We are drafting regulations to rationalize these fees,” he said when reached for comment yesterday.
This loophole gives private schools full discretion regarding miscellaneous charges, which are at times as much—if not more—than the basic tuition rates, said Palatino.
“For example, there are schools that display banners saying ‘no tuition increase.’ That’s true.  But what they are not telling you is that there is an increase in miscellaneous fees.  So they can forego tuition increases because of miscellaneous fees,” he said.
Other schools also do not provide details on the kind of miscellaneous fees they are charging students, he said.
Palatino has filed a resolution in the House of Representatives calling for an inquiry into the collection of “questionable” fees in colleges and universities in hopes of passing a law that would regulate such charges.
“It has become apparent that school owners and administrations have become more creative in imposing absurd and superfluous fees in order to effectively exploit the nonregulation of miscellaneous fees to profit immensely without having to go through the process of increasing tuition,” read Palatino’s resolution.
Declining performance
CHEd approved an average 10-percent tuition hike for 281 private tertiary schools in the coming school year.
As tuition continues to rise, enrollment in private institutions has been decreasing in the last decade, from a 68-percent enrollment share in 2000 to 63.9 percent in the last school year, Palatino said.
Students have also shown declining performance in licensure exams, with consistently less than 50 percent of takers passing their tests across different disciplines.
In 2009, only 36.09 percent of 415,190 college graduates who took licensure exams in 44 disciplines made the cut.
Meanwhile, the plan to add two more years to basic primary and high school education is underway.
Parents and teachers have already expressed concerns over the higher overall cost of education in the Philippines. –Tarra Quismundo, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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