STFAP: MECHANISM FOR SYSTEMATIC STATE NEGLECT
By the KATIPUNAN NG MGA SANGGUNIANG MAG-AARAL SA UP (KASAMA SA UP)
The Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) is an Alphabetic Bracketing Scheme (ABC) used to determine the tuition rate and/or benefits that each student must pay and/or receive. It operates in such a way that a student must prove his/her incapacity to pay the full cost of UP education to be able to receive tuition discounts and/or stipends and other benefits.
Years of implementation prove that STFAP is being used to ensure the steady flow of income from tuition. Former President Emerlinda Roman previously declared that the administration expects income from tuition through STFAP (i.e. tuition collections will not breakeven with tuition subsidy).
Thus, tuition collection in the University worked in the following manner: All students are assumed able to pay the high cost of education, placing all of them in the default Bracket B*. Then, STFAP acts as strain to ensure that fewer students will receive tuition discounts and even less will receive stipends and other benefits.
As a result, during the implementation of the Restructured STFAP following the 300% tuition increase from 2007 to summer of 2009, the administration collected roughly P500 million from the raised tuition, while spending a measly P25 million for STFAP beneficiaries. It effectively generated almost P475 million profit for the University!
Why is the new STFAP Application scheme tantamount to tuition increase?
In the restructured STFAP scheme implemented from 2007 to 2010, students are placed in the default bracket B. Subsequently, students who belong to the millionaire’s bracket** are picked and placed in Bracket A***, while the rest of the student populace will hurdle the STFAP application process in an attempt to receive tuition discounts and/or other benefits (Brackets C, D, E1 and E2).
With the new STFAP application scheme, all students are assumed to belong in Bracket A, those who wish to pay less (essentially, a discount from the default tuition rate) should hurdle this strain by either submitting a Bracket B certification form or a more strenuous process of STFAP Application to belong to lower Brackets.
According to the administration, such is being done to increase the profit from STFAP and consequently increase the number of E2 beneficiaries with the additional benefit of free lodging in University dormitories (whatever happened to the almost P475 million profit is another story).
Is there a tuition increase? Indeed, there is.
How does the STFAP absolve the national government of its responsibility?
When STFAP was first introduced in UP in 1988, it was used to justify the then impending tuition increase. The same happened in 2006, the restructuring of STFAP was used to convince the students to readily accept the proposed 300% tuition increase. And now, in a seemingly inconspicuous manner, another tuition increase in the guise of a simple revision of the STFAP application process.
Historically, STFAP maliciously led the students to believe that social justice rests in the mantra that “those who can pay should pay more, those who can not shall be subsidized”. Another way of putting this: “the rich does not have the right to education, while the poor should be subsidized by the rich” (What is now the role of the national government, supposedly mandated to provide social services such as the right to education to all its youth?). Hence, STFAP absolves the national government from this responsibility.
How does STFAP fit into the grand plan of commercialization and state abandonment of education?
The national government’s grand plan is to steadily liberate itself from the responsibility of ensuring quality and free education for its people. This is alongside the fact that governments all over the world are pressured by economic superpowers to adopt neoliberal policies in their countries (meaning, reduction of subsidy for social services and allowing private businesses to generate profits by penetrating into the social service sector, among other aspects of the economy).
The Philippine government has laid the basis for such penetration in the education sector when it adopted the Education Act of 1982, effectively deregulating the tuition rates of colleges and universities. Since then, the tuition in public and private universities skyrocketed in an ever increasing rate (alongside price increases in basic commodities due to large-scale liberalization of the local economy). It effectively pulled education farther away from the reach of the general Filipino youth and added burden to the already ailing masses.
Deregulation in the education sector is coupled with steady budget cuts and the persistent campaign to increase the profit generation capacity of State Universities and Colleges. In the case of UP, tuition increase remains to be the most reliable source of income ensured by the implementation of STFAP scheme. Other income generating schemes are commercialization of idle assets, corporate tie-ups for research, reduction of employees and their benefits, among others.
In the final analysis, STFAP and other income generating schemes of the University are in line with the grand design of the neoliberal education. The Aquino administration has become a stalwart force to push such policies at the detriment of people’s rights and welfare.
As students of the Pamantasang Bayan, we must continuously expose these anti-student and anti-people schemes. Let us continue to stand against social injustices and its manifestations inside and outside the University. Defy state neglect!