'Why not lower tuition fees of students during pandemic?' lawmakers ask

Bettina Magsaysay, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 10 2020 01:37 AM

MANILA - Lawmakers on Thursday asked educational agencies why schools can't lower their tuition fees considering that students will not be using all of their facilities this academic year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

During the joint meeting of the House Committee on Basic Education and Culture and the House Committee on Higher Education and Technical Education, lawmakers queried the Department of Health, Commission and Higher Education and the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations why there are problems imposing a moratorium on tuition and other fee increases on all educational institutions amid the pandemic.

DepEd Usec. Jesus Mateo explained that there are existing rules and regulations that govern tuition increases. 

"Kailangan may appropriate consultations conducted by the whole administration with organized students and parents organizations," he said.

Mateo also disclosed that they have released an advisory due to some concerns that were raised to the department that several schools are closing due to low income. 

"Ang sabi po namin sa kanila, 'Pwede bang wag muna kayo mag increase kung mayroon namang increases in the past' kasi ang application nagsa-start yan last year and it will end before the opening of classes in this case before the pandemic it was closed in May. Gusto ko lang po i-report na kakaunti ang po yung nag-increase. Dun sa total application kaunti lang po yung inaprove natin na increases," he said.

Laguna 2nd District Rep. Ruth Hernandez asked why schools can’t just lower these other fees, like computer fees, considering students will not be at their campus this academic year.

COCOPEA managing director Joseph Noel Estrada of COCOPEA explained that some of the fees are for recurring costs.

"Dinistribute po 'yan over the years dahil kailangang i-maintain. They cannot charge fees naman kung hindi na kailangan," he said, adding utilization fees will be void this school year.

CHED chairman Prospero de Vera meanwhile noted that in the first quarter of 2020, they have received almost 400 applications for tuition fee increase from private universities.

"Out of 393 applications, 304 or 77 percent withdrew their applications for tuition fee increase. The remaining 89 applications is about five percent of the total private higher education institutions in the whole country," he said.

"It is a very, very small number of private higher education institutions that have submitted an application for tuition fee increase in our regional offices.”

He added that a moratorium on schools may no longer be needed since only few have applied for tuition fee increase. 

"Usually the percent of universities or private universities that apply for tuition increase is about 25," De Vera said.

Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago then requested that DepEd, CHED and COCOPEA come up with a clear advisory on determining school fees for educational institutions.

The House committees will continue their joint discussion next week to continue deliberating House Bill 321 or the "Anti-No Permit, No Exam Act of 2019" which Elago is the principal author of.

The DepED last month appealed to private schools to defer increases in tuition and other fees for the coming school year due to financial constraints that parents and students may be facing due to the coronavirus pandemic.