ChEd chief: Stopping tuition hike during ECQ not our mandate
MANILA, Philippines – Stopping possible tuition fee increases during the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic is not within the mandate of the Commission on Higher Education (Ched), its chairperson said on Thursday.
Ched chair Prospero de Vera explained this House of Representatives committee on Higher and Technical Education online hearing after Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago asked if whether pending tuition fee increase could be revoked.
Classes have been suspended for areas under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), to avoid local transmission of the disease. Such measures have sparked talk about whether there is a need to refund tuition fees as the school was abruptly interrupted.
“Wala ho sa mandato ng Komisyon na sabihin na hindi pwedeng magtaas ng tuition fee, ang papel ng Commission is to ensure that the legal requirements and processes are followed,” De Vera told Elago.
(It is not in the mandate of the Commission to say that they cannot apply for tuition fee increases, the role of the Commission is to ensure that the legal requirements and processes are followed.)
However, De Vera admitted that several educational institutions have already submitted proposals for tuition fee increases, but some of them were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“May mga nag-apply na ho ng first quarter of this year (Some schools applied by the first quarter of this year), but the application process is done in the regional offices of Ched. So I wouldn’t know who applied, how much they applied for, and what is the status of their application,” he noted.
“I think most of [them] were on hold because of the quarantine, so I have not really studied the tuition fee applications but usually that is the process is observed at the region,” he added.
While there are several schools which have implemented refunds and the total stoppage of classes, students from various universities and colleges have protested that their schools have yet to refund their tuition and other fees, while insisting on a continuous online class.
Youth groups have insisted that school administrators cannot force students to study online, especially since not all would have the privilege of acquiring a stable internet connection and a device that can help them comply with requirements.
ChEd previously asked colleges and universities to defer the collection of fees during the Luzon quarantine, but the statement came as an appeal and not a direct order.
“Ang nangyari po kasi, katulad ng sinabi ni Chair Popoy, depende sa schools ‘yong action. So mainam na may general guide for refund policy ang Ched dito (What happens is that, as what Chair Popoy said, it depends on the schools to refund the fees. So it would be better to have a general guide on therefund policy),” Elago said.
Still, De Vera insisted that Ched has to balance the needs of the private educational institutions, as several problems may stem from the inability of these schools to generate income.
“Kasi we have to balance between the interest of the students and the viability of private universities because, in the end, everybody loses if the private universities are not able to generate income, and they are being enforced to move their opening much later, their financial viability is also affected,” De Vera said.
“And if their financial viability gets worse, it’s not just the private schools who suffer but it is the students because they don’t have anywhere to go. That’s why I am strongly supporting the support of government to the private universities. In the end, I am doing this because I want to safeguard access to private education,” he claimed.
As of now, schools for areas under where the ECQ was extended remain suspended, but education authorities are also mulling whether schools should even be reopened well after the ECQ, as it can serve as petri dishes for local coronavirus transmissions.
As of Thursday, the Department of Health said that there are now 8,488 patients infected with the coronavirus around the country, of which 568 have died and 1,043 have recovered.
Worldwide, over 3.19 million individuals have been infected, while at least 227,648 have died from the disease and over 972,715 have recovered from it.
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