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UP Education: Where is it going?

Last Friday I read  the news about the young woman who committed suicide because she was being asked to pay off her loan and she couldn't take it anymore.

As one of the those students who experienced the first time the UP system used the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program  or STFAP, as it is more popularly known, I was also one of the first of thousands of students who opposed it. Supposedly, the STFAP calculates school fees based on students' family income, in a bid to minimize state support for those capable of paying full tuition and divert funds to the financially needy. It is supposed to adjust the tuition fee's based on the capacity of the student to pay. Unfortunately, getting the correct bracket is a long, complicated and tedious process, with so many supporting documents required. And sometimes it can happen that you are put in the wrong bracket. 

It makes you ask, as I used to ask, why should I be the one to worry about these things when I am supposed to be studying in the state university? Shouldn't the government be doing the worrying for me? And, why put the burden of my education to the wealthy and better-off families? 

I can understand how frustrating, how difficult, it could have been for Kristen Tejada. Yes, she could have appealed for transfer to bracket E, but then again getting all the necessary requirements would need time, effort and money. Yes, she could have appealed for extension, but then again it is a cycle that she knew she would experience over and over again. I mean being on the same bracket and not having the capacity to pay for that fee would mean applying for a new loan again and again. Yes, she could have looked for a job as a student assistant or summer job or scholarship...but then again, why?

The UP Manila Chancellor Manuel Agulto said, "UP has and will always be a government institution that values quality education for deserving bright students of the country especially those who are underprivileged."

Kristen Tejada falls under deserving bright student who is also underprivileged. So, why wasn't she given that much needed  opportunity for quality education that could have changed her life and the lives of her family?

The UP students should stand as one to make sure that the UP board officials and the government study once again the mechanisms to assist the poor students in paying for their UP education as well as for them to rethink their "no late payment" policy. Let us not deprive these deserving youth the best education they can obtain simply because they do not have the capacity to pay the tuition fee. UP is a state university and it should get the correct subsidy they need in order that they can lower the tuition costs, so much lower than private schools. 

Students tie black ribbons in front of University of the Philippines campus in Manila on 18 March 2013. The students demand justice for the death of Kristel Tejada, a freshman student at UP Manila, who committed suicide for after reportedly being forced to go on leave because her family could not afford to pay tuition. (Czeasar Dancel/NPPA Images) - From Yahoo News

Kristin Tejada is an isolated case they say. Do we need more in order for them to see that need to change their policies? In a year's time, my own son is going to graduate from high school and go to college. Do I have the capacity to send him to UP? Unfortunately, no. Fortunately, Bicol University is available for him.  Is it the same? No, but at least we have options, and that option is considered today as one of the best universities in our province. Will it ensure him work? I can only hope so. I for one believes it's not the college you come from that decides whether you get work or not but hard work coupled with determination, good work attitude, the right opportunity and a little luck.

While we cannot expect our children to find work in the Philippines easily, now or in the near future, with so many unemployed and underemployed Filipinos, there are opportunities in other places, God willing. But, first and foremost, the UP education or better yet, the Philippine education should be a priority in order to give our children all the edge they need to be able to find work and excel here or abroad.

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