Read in the newspapers that students in the University of the Philippines (U.P.) are protesting moves by U.P. administration to increase tuition fees and miscellaneous fees by a little over 300%. This means that the cost of an academic unit will go from P300 to P1,000 at a campus like Diliman.
Ages ago, I remember that my first year tuition at U.P. Diliman was at about P600+ per semester for a full load. On the year that I graduated, it was at about P1,100 so that was P2,200 for a full year! Assuming that we take the high end (which is my tuition, on my last year), my parents spent a whopping (?) P8,800 for my whole degree. This was before the socialized tuition fee scheme came into effect. Lucky for them.
News reports now say that the cost per semester, with the proposed increase, will move from P6,000 to P18,000 -- that makes it P36,000 per year! We can understand why the students are up in arms but compared to other schools, even the better elementary or high schools today, that does not even cover half a year.
That's why my favorite writer Conrado de Quiros once wrote that U.P. is arguably the best university in the Philippines, inarguably the cheapest.
Still, it is a state university, and at the rate that government has been providing services for me in the other areas of my life, am secretly wishing that the increases in U.P. tuition will not be so high in the coming years. I am hoping that both my kids will get into U.P. when it is time to go to college so they can get a good education and I won't even have to spend as much than if they were to go to Ateneo or De la Salle.
Anyway, we'll see how this turns out. You have to hand it to the U.P. students for trying to keep the fees and tuition where they are today. I guess, they don't want the song "U.P. Naming Mahal" to take on an entirely different meaning.
Am reminded of a story about my dad who went to the market just yesterday. He bought some fresh prawns for dinner and since it isn't his habit to haggle (he says the vendors only make a little money), one of the other buyers said: "Tumawad naman ho kayo. Siguro kayo kaya niyong bumili dahil mayaman kayo. E kami hindi." (Please haggle. You can probably afford to buy because you are rich. We are not rich.)
Well, my dad got a few pesos off his purchase and I don't know if the other buyer also got to buy at a lower price. Bottom-line, we are always looking for the best value for our money these days. We understand where the university is coming from -- it has its financial needs and it does want to retain its better teachers and improve the quality of education. The students, and the parents, on the other hand, would also like to try to get the best education at the least price. Is there any other university in the Philippines where you can get that?
We'll know in the coming days which side will blink. At least we know that in the marketplace, the U.P. students will feel right at home. (Come to think of it, my dad is also from U.P.) =)