MANILA, Philippines - Four students of University of the Philippines Manila, including a former representative of UP’s highest policy-making body, are reportedly being barred from graduating for failing to pay tuition on time.
Former student regent Cleve Arguelles, a senior political science student, said the UP Manila administration would not allow him and three other students to settle their financial obligations as the deadline for payment has lapsed.
“(They said) it will violate the no late payment policy and our case might also set a precedent for other students,” said Arguelles, who had an outstanding balance of around P15,000.
Arguelles said only he and Christian Durana want their names to be released at the moment.
In a News5 report, Durana said UP Manila did not accept his P7,000 as payment for tuition because it was delayed.
In the same report, UP vice president for public affairs Prospero de Vera was quoted as saying that “UP Manila chancellor (Manuel Agulto) is already addressing the issue upon the advice of UP president (Alfredo) Pascual and decisions will be made in the next few days.”
Open letter, online petition
Arguelles started a petition on online platform Change.org asking the UP Manila administration to allow the four of them to graduate and repeal the university’s no late tuition policy.
The text of the petition was lifted from the open letter of the faculty of UP Manila’s political science program asking Agulto to allow the students to settle their financial obligations.
“These students and their families are in dire financial situation but they persevered throughout this academic year to attend their classes and meet all course requirements expected of a UP student,” read the petition, which had over 500 supporters as of yesterday afternoon.
The petition noted that it was UP Manila vice chancellor for academic affairs Josephine de Luna who said that approving the request would set a precedent for late payments and violate the university’s no late tuition policy.
The petition said “the university has nothing to gain in preventing poor, working students… from graduating due to inability to pay tuition on time.”
Remembering Kristel’s suicide
Among the supporters of the online petition is Christopher Tejada, father of UP Manila behavioral sciences student Kristel Tejada, who committed suicide last year allegedly due to tuition woes.
“These were the same words from the same person who advised us to let Kristel (file) her leave of absence last year,” he said, referring to the alleged reason of De Luna in denying the request of the graduating students.
Kristel was a freshman in UP Manila when she committed suicide by drinking silver cleaner at their home in Tondo, Manila on March 15 last year. She was declared dead at the Metropolitan Medical Center.
The alleged reason for her suicide: she was forced to take a leave of absence because her family could not pay their P10,000 outstanding balance to UP Manila.
Following the suicide, the administration of Pascual pushed for changes in tuition policy, particularly in the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program, which sets the amount of tuition that students have to pay based on their socio-economic situation.
In December, the UP board of regents voted on the approved amendments to the university code to remove policies that barred students from registering for class if they fail to settle their balances.
While the amendments allowed students who fail to pay tuition to attend classes, Arguelles noted that it did not actually repeal the no late tuition policy.
“The policy is anti-poor. Even in private schools, they allow promissory notes and late payment of tuition. Why not in UP, which is a state university?” he said.