UP Kilos Na on STFAP and UP VPAA’s April 18, 2011 Memo

Posted on June 9, 2011


Position Paper on the April 18 Memo of  the UP VPAA and on STFAP

by UP Kilos Na

June 3, 2011


The Path of Least Resistance

The overwhelmingly depressing state of UP education is represented by the story of Cherry, an UPCAT passer whose dream of acquiring a degree from one of the country’s top state universities hangs in the balance. Cherry comes from a poor family, her mother who has a spinal condition must seek domestic work in Manila so that housing and food will no longer be a problem for Cherry. Her father is still on a job hunt. Recently, her story was featured by GMA 7 in cooperation with Kabataan Partylist. In no time, a good soul volunteered to shoulder Cherry’s tuition for four years. Needless to say, Cherry’s needs as a college student go beyond tuition. Furthermore, the question of how many Cherrys there are among the current batch of UPCAT passers is a tough one as it reflects on the whole system that gives shape to UP education.

Cherry’s case is not unusual. It is the logical result of UP’s complicity with the State’s abandonment of its role in public education. This collusion becomes evident in the miserable failure of the STFAP to fulfil its stated goal: to democratize undergraduate student admission. Before the establishment of the STFAP in 1988, students paid the same amount of tuition regardless of family income. In 2010, only 457 students out of 39,474 (or 1.16%) belonged to the lowest bracket E2. Contrary to its projection as a complementary feature for the University’s scholarship program, it has in fact ended up reducing the number of students receiving full state subsidy for their college education. From this, it is not difficult to see how the socialized tuition scheme functions as a smokescreen for tuition increase.

STFAP’s Failure

STFAP is nothing but a dismal failure from the point of view of increasing accessibility to quality tertiary education in one of the country’s leading state universities. Its spurious claim of promoting the values of social responsibility and social justice through a scheme that compels rich students to subsidize poor students not only makes the Iskolar ng Bayan pay for the failure of government to fully support state universities and colleges, it also promotes a warped sense of justice. There was a time when the case for social transformation consisted in the democratic formula of poor people coming together in a collective struggle to change a system which systematically breeds poverty. The UP Administration, in its continued implementation of the STFAP, insists that access to education—an indispensable factor for social transformation—is now largely dependent on the rich’s charitable disposition. This follows an unmistakable elitist formula for reform that has been wide of the mark in many countries worldwide.

It is bad enough that the STFAP is deeply flawed in conceptualization, but on the practical level, the scheme is little more than a farcical stunt. The vast majority of students opted for the Bracket B,[1] the default bracket, not because their family income actually falls within the P500,001 to P1,000,000 range but because the procedure involved in the application for brackets with increased subsidy requires, among other things, the submission of a slew of forms and records, as well as undergoing  home-inspections, background checks and interrogations—a procedure not unlike an audit, which assumes that the applicants are out to defraud the University.

The Newly-Minted Memorandum

The issue of the Restructured Socialized Tuition and Financing Assistance Program (STFAP) which was implemented in 2007 simultaneous with the increase of tuition from an average of P300/unit to P1,000 per unit in Diliman, Los Banos and Manila and from an average of  P200/unit to  P600 per unit in UP Visayas, Baguio and Mindanao appeared once again with the following internet post on June 1, several days before the start of the registration period: “May ipinasang bagong memorandum ang Office of the Vice President for Acad Affairs na ginawang BRACKET A ang default BRACKET na dati ay B. Mula 1K papuntang 1.5K. Isang porma ng Tuition Fee Increase. Sa UP Visayas, ito ay ipinapatupad na.” -UPLB University Student Council AY 2011-2012

What is the memorandum of the VPAA referred to by the post of the UPLB University Student Council?

The April 8 memorandum of new UP Vice President for Academic Affairs Gisela P. Concepcion has as subject “Distribution of the Revised Bracket B Certification to Incoming Freshmen Students during the registration period for the First Semester of AY 2011-2012 and was addressed to the Vice Chancellors for Academic Affairs/Instruction, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, UP Diliman and to the Dean of UP Cebu, the University Registrars and the Directors of Offices of Student Affairs. This memo refers to the agreement made in a meeting of the VPAA with the University Registrars and the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs of UP Diliman and states that “additional requirements for a student to be classified under Bracket B (ITR, vicinity map of family residence) and notarization of required documents. The memo also reminds the abovementioned officials to coordinate with the Office of Admissions and to request for the income information given by the students in their UPCAT application.  Addressees are also reminded that a reported income of over P1 million by a student, categorizes that student as Bracket A.

Are the students wrong in imputing that the April 8 memorandum changes the default bracket from Bracket B to Bracket A?

For the students, the experience with STFAP in the past four years placed Bracket B as the default bracket; meaning a student who fails to apply for STFAP support is automatically classified as Bracket B unless he/she has reported an income of over P1 million. No notarization of income declaration was required.

The memorandum’s focus on the fulfilment of the new Bracket B certification and additional requirements for classification under Bracket B cannot but be interpreted as a change in the default bracket of the STFAP given the students’ experience with STFAP. The memorandum refers only to  freshies but the new requirements cover old undergraduate students as well.[2] Non-freshman undergraduate students “who did not apply for STFAP will be set to Bracket B as default for the assessment of 1st semester 2001. However, [they] will be required to prove that [their] family income is less than P1,000,000 by submitting supporting documents at any time within the 1st semester or before the start of 2nd semester registration. “[3]

The memorandum does not explain the rationale for these new requirements, it is understandable why the students strongly believe that the imposition of new requirements is actually a ploy to increase the number of students categorized in Bracket A.

This would mean that incoming freshies are presumed to belong to the “millionaire’s bracket” unless they are able to prove otherwise by undergoing the rigours of an STFAP application. Apart from the lack of democratic consultation in the implementation of this particular STFAP revision, we must also note the use of the method patented by the previous Roman administration of targeting only new students in order to skirt opposition.

President Pascual attempts to provide the justification for his VPAA’s memo: “ (T)here has been no rebracketing of  STFAP. The confusion might have arisen from the recent directive of the VP for Academic Affairs to require incoming freshmen to submit certain docs as evidence family income. The objective is to promote transparency in the implementation of STFAP and ensure the integrity of the program.”

UP Kilos Na says that if the objective is “to promote transparency in the implementation of the STFAP and to ensure the integrity of the program”, then the memo does not fulfil that objective. There is no discussion on the shortcomings in the previous implementation of the STFAP and the problems related to the lack of integrity of the program.

A more important question would be related to the fact that the STFAP was supposed to “ensure that ‘democratic access to the university will not be affected’ whenever tuition increases are implemented, said Vice President for Planning and Finance Edgardo Atanacio, who was part of the review committee for revision of STFAP in 2006 and 2009.[4]

Should not the new UP administration, with its concern for increasing access to UP education to poor but deserving students view with utmost concern the report that :

After over two decades of implementation of the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP), the number of UP Diliman students benefiting from free tuition has declined by almost 90 percent.

In 1991, two years after the STFAP was first implemented, one in every five undergraduate students in Diliman benefited from free tuition under the program. Two decades later, only one in every one hundred students is granted free tuition.[5]

Percent of student population in Diliman with free tuition[6]

*The table only included statistics on STFAP bracketing which corresponds to free matriculation in the Numeric and Alphabetic schemes, namely brackets 1-5 and brackets E1 and E2. The table used figures for the second semester of each academic year for both the STFAP bracketing and the enrolment data.  Source: UP Diliman Office of the University Registrar, Office of Scholarships and Student Services

From the restructuring of STFAP in 2007 following the implementation of the 300% increase in tuition in the same year, the UP Administration has spent a measly P25 million pesos for STFAP beneficiaries for a 3-year period (2007-2010). On the other hand, from 2007-2010, the University generated almost P475 million from tuition fees. These figures should, at the very least, prompt us all to evaluate whether the main purpose and objective of our vaunted tuition scheme is genuine “socialization” or whether it is really “profit maximization.”

Our Call: UP Kilos Na!

UP Kilos Na calls on the new UP administration to rectify its predecessors’ grave errors that caused the suffering of many  Iskolar ng Bayan and the exclusion of poor but deserving students. We demand that the new administration increase access to UP education by seriously examining the condition of decreased entry of poor but deserving students since the implementation of the STFAP. Implementing a scheme that will require more students to bear the burden of the millionaire’s bracket does not solve the problem of a very low percentage of students obtaining full subsidy. The new administration should instead evaluate the STFAP according to its original objective of democratizing access to UP education.

UP Kilos Na recognizes that the UP Administration will need to look into enacting more systemic changes in its policies in order to concretely address the issue of democratic access but it should be done within the framework of demanding greater state support to UP as the national university; not through increased student fees in whatever form or guise. UP Kilos Na will support the new UP Administration in its efforts to fulfil its pledge to strengthen the public character and the public service responsibility of the University of the Philippines; and to observe democratic governance.

The path of least resistance is the path of the status quo. This is the path taken by the successive UP administrations of the past few decades. However, the path which we should take is not this one but the path leading toward genuine democratization and social justice.

[1] Over 30,000 students from a total of around 40,000. STFAP –Alphabetic Bracketing Scheme (ABS), 1st semester, Undergraduate Data (2007-2010)

[2] It was only after attention was called on the matter that the notice that appeared on the CRS online was deleted.

[3] CRS UP Diliman, “Clarification Regarding STFAP Bracketing for non-freshman undergraduate students”. https://crs.upd.edu.ph/

[4] Marjohara Tucay, “In two decades of STFAP implementation: Students with free tuition decreased by over 90 percent”, Philippine Collegian, July 3, 2010.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

Posted in: STFAP, TOFI