UP to reform student financial assistance program

The 23-year-old Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program will go by its new name, the Socialized Tuition Scheme, in the next academic school year

OUT WITH THE OLD. The Board of Regents approved the Socialized Tuition Scheme, replacing the 23-year old STFAP.

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Increased stipend, an automated bracket assignment procedure, and a simplified application process.

These are just a few of the reforms in the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) approved by majority of the present members of University of the Philippines’ (UP) Board of Regents (BOR) on Friday, December 13.

7 out of 9 regents approved the proposal submitted by UP President Alfredo Pascual, while student regent Krista Melgarejo and staff regent Anna Razel Ramirez both abstained.

The 23-year-old STFAP will go by its new name  the Socialized Tuition Scheme (STS)  following its official implementation in the coming 2014-2015 academic school year. Apart from STS, the BOR also approved revisions in articles 330, 430, and 431 of the university student code.

STFAP is the scholarship program and alphabetic bracketing scheme of the state university which categorizes students based on their socio-economic standing.  The debate over scrapping or reforming STFAP, and discussions on the affordability of state education heightened after the death of a UP student. She committed suicide after allegedly failing to pay her tuition on time.  (READ: Mareng Winnie on subsidizing UP millionaires: Are you crazy?)

Since its implementation back in 1989 and its amendment in 2007, the socialized tuition fee mechanism has been continuously criticized for its supposed ineffectiveness and inadequacy in democratizing “access and admission to [UP’s] academic programs while promoting fairness and social justice in the University.”  

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) also revealed earlier in 2013 that they are looking into the possibility of institutionalizing socialized tuition mechanisms in major state university and colleges, patterned after the UP’s STFAP.  

New provisions

STS introduced 6 revisions in STFAP, all of which address the gaps in the existing program.

“We have worked on the STS since the start of my administration in 2011 and it is part of our commitment to make sure that no qualified student will be denied a UP education on account of financial need,” said UP president Pascual. 

Applicants of the socialized tuition scheme are now required to submit a two-page form that will be the basis for assigning an STFAP bracket. Previously, applicants who wanted to be categorized in lower brackets were required to submit a 14-page form on an annual basis.

The appeal process will also be faster given the decentralization of the decision to the concerned campus or constituent university, replacing the old system where applicants had to wait for the decision of a UP system-level committee that meets only thrice a year. 

Under STS, students who fall under the lowest bracket will also enjoy an increase in stipends – from P2,400 to P3,500 a month. According to the  proposal the “allowance may be in the form of cash, meals, dormitory accommodation and other benefits and services provided by the university.”

STS also features a 30% upward adjustment in income cut-offs for brackets A to D.  Under STS, familes whose annual income amount to P1 million may still be categorized to bracket B. 


BRACKET

Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program

Socialized Tuition Scheme

A

P1,000,000 and above

P1,300,000 and above

B

P500,001 to P1,000,000

P650,001 to P1,300,000

C

P250,001 to P500,000

P325,001 to P650,000

D

P135,001 to P250,000

P135,001 to P325,000

E1

P80,001 to 135,000

P80,001 to P135,000

E2

P80,000 and less

P80,000 and less

 

The BOR also approved the proposed revisions in articles 330, 430, and 431 of the University student code. Existing provisions in the same articles supposedly prevent students from enrolling and/or taking final exams due to financial constraints.

UP President Alfredo Pascual proposed the new provisions for Article 330, which requires students to register prior being accepted to class, and Article 430, implementing zero-interest for loans accomplished within the semester. 

Of all the proposed revisions, only the proposed version of Article 431 submitted by Justice For Kristel Tejada Alliance got a unanimous vote. The new provision allows students to continue with their education despite outstanding loans, provided that an appeal letter is filed with the concerned dean, “explaining the nature of his/her financial incapacity.”

Here is a copy of the proposed and approved revision of STFAP: 

STFAP Reform Proposal

Counter-proposal

Student regent Krista Melgarejo opposed the STS proposal and the revisions on Articles 430 and 330, saying that the university should start veering away from the framework of STFAP.

Instead na makatulong sa estudyante, dahil sa STFAP, kailangan pa rin patunayan ng mga estudyante na pumapasok sa isang state university na mahirap sila,” Melgarejo added. (Instead of aiding students, STFAP creates a system where state scholars are still required to prove that they are poor.)

The student regent also presented a counter-proposal during the BOR meeting and recommended, instead, a flat-rate, affordable tuition scheme.

According to Melgarejo, the counter-proposal was welcomed by the board. However, the BOR added that the said scheme is not yet feasible for the state university. Rappler.com


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