Quantcast
Latest Stories

Coed suicide sparks soul-searching at UP

University vows reform of socialized tuition scheme

By , Dona Z. Pazzibugan Julie M. Aurelio

UP MANILA OBLATION IN BLACK Students at the University of the Philippines in Manila cover the Oblation statue with black cloth to protest the school’s “no-late-payment” tuition policy and the death of Kristel Tejada (inset). Tejada took her life on Friday after filing a leave of absence for failure to pay tuition. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA/FACEBOOK PHOTO

“The UP deprived my daughter of her only hope to help us,” said the father of Kristel Tejada, a freshman at the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila who took her life on March 15 at their home in Tayuman by drinking silver cleaner.

The suicide of Kristel, 16, the eldest of five children of a taxi driver and a housewife, came after she filed a leave of absence in the middle of the second semester for failure to pay tuition of less than P10,000.

“How painful was it to remove that sole hope to help your parents and yourself?” said Christopher Tejada after hearing Mass with wife, Blesilda, at the Philippine General Hospital chapel.

Kristel’s death triggered protests on the campuses of the UP System and prompted the UP administration to consider reforms in its socialized tuition scheme.

UP president Alfredo Pascual said the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) needed to be restructured to make the economic indicators that determine a student’s capacity to pay more realistic, the application process less tedious and the monthly allowance increased.

Pascual said he would propose to the governing UP Board of Regents at its meeting next month to lift the controversial “no-late-payment” tuition policy effective immediately.

“My position as UP president (is) no student shall be denied access to UP education due to financial constraints. I’m all for its lifting. I will immediately propose to the Board (of Regents) next meeting on April 12 to lift the ‘no-late-payment policy’ effective on all college units,” Pascual said in a statement issued at a press conference at the administration building on the UP Diliman campus.

Resign

The elder Tejada welcomed the call of the faculty and staff of the Department of Behavioral Sciences in UP Manila for the resignation of the school’s chancellor and vice chancellor.

Christopher told reporters that others may be more deserving to replace Chancellor Manuel Agulto and Vice Chancellor Josephine de Luna.

“Vice chancellor, you know how we asked for your help and humbled ourselves before you,” the father said.

Christopher accepted the return of his daughter’s UP identification card, which she had to surrender when she filed a leave of absence.

“It’s as if she lived for me. When she turned over her ID, it was like snuffing out her life. Perhaps she is happy now because her ID was returned [to us]. She’s still part of UP,” he said.

Human face

Kristel’s death “gave us a human face to the longstanding struggle against state apathy and neglect of the education of our youth” in the midst of limited opportunities and elitist policies, said the statement issued by the faculty and staff of the Department of Behavioral Sciences in UP Manila.

Sociology professor Jocelyn del Mundo read the statement at the Philippine General Hospital chapel after a Mass sponsored by the UP Manila Student Council for Tejada.

Del Mundo urged a review of the STFAP to make the system simpler, more student-friendly and efficient. She said other strategies like study-now-pay-later and installment payment schemes should be considered.

Despite the criticisms and protests against the memorandum on the no-late-payment policy, Agulto and De Luna “turned a deaf ear and persisted with their autocratic and callous style of leadership,” Del Mundo said.

Not cold-hearted

Agulto decried the media’s portrayal of him and De Luna as “cold-hearted and ruthless.”

At the press conference, the official broke down and recalled how he was once in a situation similar to Tejada’s. “I was once a medical school student struggling to pay my tuition,” Agulto said, his voice cracking.

“We do not wish to give anyone a difficult time. We dream for them as they aspire for their future. We do not wish to pose obstacles in realizing their dreams,” he said.

Installment plan

Pascual said his administration would institute an installment payment plan so cash-strapped parents could pay the tuition according to their salary schedule.

The no-late-payment policy was applied to Tejada whose application in December for a loan to cover her second semester tuition was denied because the semester was underway for nine weeks.

Father laid off

Tejada, who was assessed in May to fall under STFAP Bracket D, which requires her to pay P300 a unit plus miscellaneous fees, appealed last September or midway into the first semester to be reassessed into Bracket E2, which would have exempted her from paying tuition and entitled her to a stipend.

In her appeal, Tejada said her father was laid off from work and her parents were constantly fighting over lack of money. She was turned down reportedly for failing to submit supporting documents.

Her father was able to pay her first-semester tuition loan of P6,337 only on Dec. 19 and immediately asked that she be allowed to enroll for the second semester under a tuition loan.

Appeal denied

The father’s appeal was denied as the UP Manila Office of Student Affairs cited a policy that bars the late payment of tuition when classes for the semester have begun.

Tejada’s mother’s personal appeal to Agulto was also denied. Agulto said he had to uphold the decision made by his officials.

“If only I knew the extent of her difficulties, I personally would have attended to her family’s needs,” Agulto said.

Income brackets

Under the STFAP, students are categorized according to their families’ annual income and other factors.

For the UP Diliman, Los Baños and Manila campuses, students in Bracket A with annual family income of above P1 million pay P1,500/unit; Bracket B (P500,001-P1 million) P1,000/unit; Bracket C (P250,000-P500,000) P600; Bracket D (P135,000 to P250,000) P300; Bracket E1 (P80,001 to P135,000) free tuition; and Bracket E2 (P80,000 or less) free tuition plus P12,000 per semester stipend.

For UP Baguio, Mindanao, San Fernando and Visayas campuses, Bracket A students pay P1,000/unit; Bracket B P600; Bracket C P400; Bracket D P200 and Bracket E free tuition. Those who do not apply for STFAP automatically fall under Bracket A.

Mismatch

Pascual acknowledged a “mismatch” between the economic indicators and the actual financial need of students under the STFAP, while the long application and verification process delayed decisions on appeals to be reassessed, as what happened in Tejada’s case.

Under the proposed changes, Pascual said a student’s capacity to pay would be based not only on the family income but also on a socioeconomic classification based on aggregate expenditures.

He also said that the current stipend of P12,000 a semester for students under Bracket E2 was inadequate and that he would propose to increase this to P20,000 a semester.

Shift scholarships

Pascual said his administration would try to shift scholarships more toward a student’s financial need rather than academic excellence and seek to increase the slots for student assistants with higher allowances.

He said the 14-page application form would be cut down to two pages and the application processing time reduced from six months to two months.

Pascual added he hoped the Board of Regents would immediately approve the changes so these could be implemented by the start of the next school year in June.

Interrupted

The press conference was interrupted by some students’ attempts to protest the STFAP as they called for its immediate scrapping and for Agulto’s resignation.

Agulto said he was willing to resign if anyone could prove he did nothing to help Tejada. “You cannot say that we did nothing. But had I known her personal circumstances, I would have done even more,” he said.

Outside Quezon Hall on the UP Diliman campus, student protesters draped a black cloth on the statue of the Oblation.

Protesters also announced a students’ strike on all UP campuses to mourn Tejada’s death, called for the “rollback” in tuition and demanded accountability from UP officials in the wake of Tejada’s suicide.

Solidarity protest

Students of Polytechnic University of the Philippines held solidarity protests over the death of Tejada and the reported tuition increase in their school.

“We fear that if tuition and other fees increase in PUP, we will face the same fate as the UP Iskolar ng Bayan. We must protest the fee hikes,” said PUP student regent Helen Alfonso.

PUP Communication Management Office director Ruby Gapasin said the students burned broken chairs on the school grounds.

PUP president Emanuel de Guzman held a dialogue with the students and assured them that the tuition for undergraduate courses would remain at P12 per unit.

However, the fees will increase for graduate school and open university because these receive minimal government subsidy.


Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Education , Kristel Tejada , Polytechnic University of the Philippines , Suicide , University of the Philippines (UP) , UP-Manila




Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  2. Chinese lawyers say they were tortured by police
  3. Hair salon’s Kim Jong Un poster riles embassy
  4. Siquijor ‘healer’: For every cure, there’s a plant
  5. State seeks guilty verdict for Abalos
  6. Why college grads end up in the PNP
  7. Estrada: I will pray for my detractors
  8. Miraculous image makes Gapan City top site for pilgrimage in Central Luzon
  9. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  10. Five men from Cavite found dead in jeep in Batangas
  1. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  2. MH370 co-pilot made mid-flight phone call – report
  3. Netizens cry: 6/55 Lotto was rigged
  4. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  5. ‘Wife of Jesus’ theory papyrus not fake – Harvard study
  6. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  7. Gay college instructor arrested for oral sex with student
  8. ‘King’ Yabut and I: Driver bares Makati dad ‘abuses’
  9. It was difficult having Japanese blood
  10. Palace: We can’t blame increase in population on Vitangcol
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Pork payoffs to newscasters Erwin Tulfo, Del Prado, others bared
  4. UP back on top as ‘average’ student aces bar
  5. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  6. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  7. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  8. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  9. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  10. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
Advertisement

News

  • Sign maker to be nailed to cross for 28th time
  • 50 Quezon City cops each carry 30-kg crosses
  • AFP: Abu Sayyaf group, not MILF, target of Basilan operation
  • Massive infra spending set
  • DOJ to NBI: Arrest Cedric Lee, 4 others
  • Sports

  • Federer would skip tennis to be with wife, newborn
  • Manny Pacquiao in PBA? If so, he’ll wear No. 17
  • PSC sets Blu Girls US training
  • Power Pinoys settle for 7th place
  • Successful coaches to get raise
  • Lifestyle

  • Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  • Celebrate Easter Sunday at Buddha-Bar Manila
  • Moriones feast: A slow, steady transformation
  • Weaving ‘palaspas’ a tradition kept alive in Tayabas City
  • Finalists announced for best translated books
  • Entertainment

  • Why Lucky has not bought an engagement ring for Angel
  • Derek more private with new girlfriend
  • ‘Community’ star happy with return of show’s creator
  • Jealousy is kid stuff
  • Mommy-daughter adventure continues
  • Business

  • PH presses bid to keep rice import controls
  • PSEi continues to gain
  • Number of retrenched workers rose by 42% in ’13
  • PH seen to sustain rise in FDIs
  • Gov’t subsidies to state firms fell in first 2 months
  • Technology

  • Smart phone apps and sites perfect for the Holy Week
  • Tech company: Change passwords or suffer ‘Heartbleed’
  • Filling the digital talent gap
  • SSS to shut down website for Holy Week
  • Another reason to quit social media this Holy Week: your safety
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • First Fil-Am elected to Sierra Madre, Calif. city council
  • UC Irvine cultural night to dramatize clash of values in immigrant family
  • Filipino sweets and info served at UC Berkeley Spring Fest
  • Milpitas, California kids wrap up a successful run of ‘The Wiz’
  • Netizens welcome Japan’s visa-free travel plan
  • Marketplace
    Advertisement