Student leaders plan filing of TRO against CHED's suspension of Tuition Cap

Alleges possible Malacañang intervention

1 March 2007

"The lifting by CHED of the tuition cap to appease school owners reeks of Malacañang's intervention and we students will stop at nothing to ensure that this injustice is corrected."

This was the statement today of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) secretary-general Alvin Peters when he revealed plans by the students to file a temporary restraining order (TRO) against CHED's Memorandum from the Chairman which lifted the tuition cap provided for by the amended CHED Memorandum Order No. 14 (CMO 14) last week.

"We are infuriated that the government agency that is supposed to safeguard the right of the students to quality and affordable education has turned its back on the students for the umpteenth time."

Earlier this week, the Commission on Higher Education had made public the suspension of CMO 14 and its subsequent amendments while restoring CMO 13, series of 1998, as the guidelines for tuition fee increases for the next school year.

"The students' hard-won gains in their campaign for a genuine mechanism of tuition and other fee regulation, has suffered a major setback because CHED has chosen to kowtow to private schools' interests."

Peters claimed that fierce lobbying by private school groups like COCOPEA (Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations) and CEAP (Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines) resulted in CHED's capitulation, thereby suspending the amended CMO 14 and as a result the tuition cap based on the inflation rate. Peters further alleged that Malacañang may have had a hand in CHED's action, saying "it is a grave possibility and one we are looking closely at, that powerful private school owners might have petitioned the President herself to intervene in the matter of the tuition cap."

"The CHED can no longer deny the reason behind the dubious suspension of CHED Memorandum Order number 14 and its amendments, which provides that tuition and other fee increases should not be more than the current inflation rate," Peters said.

"It is clear as the sun that COCOPEA has exerted undue influence and pressure for the removal of the tuition hike cap by claiming it "has affected their competitiveness and has prevented them from improving their facilities," he added.

Peters vowed that the NUSP together with other national youth groups such as KABATAAN Partylist and the College Editors Guild of the Philippines would resort to legal moves to enforce a moratorium on tuition and other fee increases for the next school year while CHED reviews its memorandum.

"We demand a freeze of all tuition and other fee hikes for Academic Year 2007-2008 while the matter of the CMO 14 is unresolved," Peters said. ###

12 comments:

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The Manila Times
Thursday, March 2, 2007

Student groups fight lifting of tuition cap

By Jonathan M. Hicap, Reporter

Different student organizations to be led by the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) and Kabataan party-list will file a case in court to stop the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) from lifting the cap on tuition increases.

Alvin Peters, NUSP secretary-general, told The Manila Times they would seek a restraining order against CHED from a regional trial court on March 7.

A CHED memorandum on February 20 informed colleges and universities that its Memorandum Order 14 and two subsequent amendment orders are suspended “pending review by the commission.”

The commission said CMO 13 would instead be used as guidelines for any tuition increase for school year 2007-08.

CMOs 14 of 2004, 42 of 2006 and 7 of 2007 imposed limits on tuition increases. Under CMO 7, the allowable increase “should not be more than the prevailing national inflation rate.”

The order mandates all schools to conduct consultations with students and other stakeholders and any agreed increase should be approved by the CHED.

Julito Vitriolo, CHED deputy executive director, explained that the three orders were suspended after the schools cited the economic crisis as a reason why the cap should be lifted.

Vitriolo allayed fears by students that the lifting of the cap will pave way for schools to wantonly increase their fees, saying that CMO 13 requires that schools must consult students and other stakeholders before any increase in tuition and other fee is implemented.

“Even if a school plans to increase its fees by 1 percent, there should be consultation,” he said.

Under CMO 13, no tuition cap is imposed, but schools are required to conduct consultation with students, faculty, alumni and nonteaching personnel associations for any plan to increase its fee. However, consultation is not needed for any tuition increase for incoming freshmen.

But Peters said CMO 13 covers only tuition and not miscellaneous and other fees in the consultation. He said schools could jack up their other fees to circumvent the consultation clause.

Schools have been waging a campaign for the CHED to lift the cap on tuition increase.

The largest consortium of private colleges and universities in the country said the CHED has no power to impose limits in the matter of increasing tuition and other fees, claiming that it “is beyond the regulatory power of the CHED as provided by law.”

In an advisory issued to its member schools, the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (Cocopea) said CMO 14, 42 and 7, which all pertains to guidelines in tuition increase, “deprives the schools of the much needed revenues.”

Instead, the CHED said CMO 13 issued in 1998 will be used as guidelines for tuition increase that will be implemented for the coming school year. The order does not impose any cap on tuition increase. Schools are only advised to conduct consultations with students, alumni and other stakeholders. Tuitions that will be imposed on incoming freshmen also need not be consulted with stakeholders.

Cocopea said by issuing CMO 7, which bars schools from increasing their tuition rates beyond the national inflation rate, the CHED “has exercised restrictive and prohibitory powers over [schools].”

“Cocopea believes that the CHED has no power to substitute its own discretion and effectively impair the agreement between the school and its stakeholders to increase tuition and other fees,” the consortium said.

It said the CHED is endangering the economic survival of private schools if a cap is imposed on the increase.

“In restricting increases in tuition and other fees, [CHED] deprives the schools of the much needed revenues, which are incontestably the lifeblood of every private education institution.”

Cocopea said amendments to CMO 14 “were issued without due publication and hearing.” It advised member schools “to withhold recognition of the said order as the prevailing policy in tuition increase.”

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