YR 47 Issue 1 2011
 
 
ISSUES
UST finance imposes stricter measures    
By LORENZ CHRISTOFFER S. MARASIGAN AND CELINDA A MERCADO
The Thomasian community was caught off -guard last semester as the Offi ce of the Vice Rector for Finance released a memo banning students with outstanding balance from enrolling. The memo evoked various reacti ons from students, parents, and faculty members alike, propelling student leaders and acti vists to run rallies and protests fi ghti ng for every student’s right to education.

THE UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas incurred approximately P85.5 million of losses due to student debt in the first semester of this academic year alone and an estimated receivables of P200 million, Central Student Council President Lorraine Taguiam said.

According to her, these uncollected fees forced the Offi ce of the Vice Rector for Finance to issue a memo that would bar students with outstanding balance from enrolling.

“Fr. Rector [Rolando de la Rosa, O.P.] said that the University pays at least P90 million a month for the electricity expenses, pays the salaries of all of the professors including more than 2,000 personnel every month,” she said. “The University cannot tell these people that their salaries will be in a form of a promissory note.”

While many aff ected students questioned the legality of the memo, Article XX, Section 99 of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) 2008 Manual of Regulations of Private Higher Education states that Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) “have the right to refuse enrollment to a student who has an outstanding balance or property obligation to the school.”

CHED Executi ve Director Julito Vitriolo said that a license given to HEIs is a privilege from the government. However, he noted that education is not only a form of social service, but is a business as well. “It is a form of social service and a business. The government does not support private schools therefore they get their income from school fees. Bott om line is, [if] the fees are high, that is the only way to provide quality education,” he said.

While students have the right to enroll unti l they finish their course, Arti cle XVIII, Section 83 of the said manual states that: “except in cases of…failure to sett le due tuition and other school fees and other obligations…a student…shall qualify to stay for the entire period for which he is expected to complete his program of study in the institution.”

HEIs also have the right to withhold credentials, deny final examinations, and refuse to give out grades should students fail to pay their tuition.

However, Vitriolo said that schools should give a “fair noti ce” to the students before implementing new policies.

The policy was released only a few weeks before the enrollment of the second semester and it apparently gave students with unpaid balance insuffi cient ti me to settle their account. A six percent interest was charged to those who failed to sett le their balance on ti me, but this order was later on deferred unti l the next academic year.

“A [few] weeks under the circumstances [is not enough]. They (administrati on) should have publicized it first,” he told the
Flame. “The most acceptable is for them to implement the policy on the next school year.”

Reasonable cases

In response to the protests made against the policy, Taguiam said the CSC lobbied for the University to accept promissory notes for the second semester.

“We still considered that the University has a reasonable cause. We did not lobby for the total disregarding of the memo,” she said. In her November 22 meeti ng with De la Rosa, the latt er approved to restore the promissory note-privilege.

“It depends on the reasonableness of the case. There should be a guarantee for the University to approve it,” Taguiam said. “Also, on excepti onal cases like death of a family member and sickness, the University will take that into considerati on.”

Also in the said meeti ng, De la Rosa shared his observati ons with Taguiam and said that the people “crying for justi ce” upheld the very essence of the memo.

“[The memo gives] justi ce to those students who pay on ti me,” she recounted the Rector saying.

Taguiam added that students may also send their promissory notes during the preliminary examinati ons and “hopefully in their fi nal examinati ons [as well], but they need to have no outstanding balance by the end of the semester.”

Hasty issuance

In line with the hasty issuance of the memo, some critics argue that the policy should have been implemented next academic year so as to give affected parties enough time to prepare. Arts and Letters Student Council (ABSC) President Julius Fernandez questioned the compassion of the University to students who “really deserve and have the willingness to study, but are facing fi nancial diffi culties.”

Fernandez added that not all of the students who are suffering due to the impositi on of the memo are financially challenged but are irresponsible students who use the money for other means instead of using it to settle their account.

Artlets Political Party Act-Now! Spokesperson Sofia Santiago said the new policy does not reflect the ideals upheld by the University. 

“UST should be an insti tution that values education as a basic right, rather than as a private institution that is hungry for profit. The memo they issued contradicts their teachings,” Campos said in an online interview.

However, this issue that appears to be new to students is old and recurring as Taguiam noted that the policy was already implemented in the past years, and that “the University [saw it fi t] to strictly implement it [again] this year.”

Need for Students’ Code

Taguiam noted that the passage of a magna carta for students’ rights could have helped the students in bargaining with the administration.

“If the code was fully implemented, we could have done something about the [finance] policy,” Taguiam said. “One of the provisions present in the code is for the students to have bargaining powers that entitle them to relate their opinions in terms of policy-making.” Under Article V of the proposed code, students have the right to participate in the policy-making process. The CSC or local student councils shall represent the student body during the policy-making process.

“No policy that aff ects students’ rights and welfare shall be implemented without participation in the deliberation, formulation, and implementation of the duly authorized representatives of the students,” the Code says in Secti on 2 of the said Article.

However, Taguiam said that this provision is one of the “most controversial provisions” in the Code.

“It is because the administrati on’s point of view is still conservative. [For them] there are certain things that students should not meddle with,” she said, adding that the provision is a way “just for us to be heard and to be considered with regard to the policies they want to implement.”

Vitriolo backed this claim and said that students, particularly student leaders, should take an “acti ve part” in the policy-making process of the University.

“[In] the constitutional autonomy [in applying new policies], we prescribe that the students should be an active part of policymaking. The student government should take steps to protect the welfare of their fellow students,” Vitriolo said.

Enrollment drop ‘just normal’

Meanwhile, Artlets Dean Michael Anthony Vasco said that a drop in the number of enrollees for the second semester is “just normal.” Of the 3,863 enrollees of the fi rst semester this academic year, the enrollees dropped to 3,749 or 2.95 percent decrease this semester. “The University experiences that every year,” Vasco said.

Last academic year, 125 Artlets students or 3.37 percent did not enroll for the second semester.
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TIMELINE

What happened before?

CENTRAL Student Council President Lorraine Taguiam said the Finance memo was released due to the P85.5 million uncollected fees from students last semester. She added that the University has an estimated total receivables of P200 million.

The Finance offi ce released a memo last October 7 barring students with remaining balance from enrolling. The same memo also cancelled out the privilege of using promissory notes to enroll. A six percent interest was imposed on students with outstanding balance for failure to pay on ti me.

In response, Politi cal Party Alliance of Concerned Thomasians (ACT-Now!) and Civil Law Student Council Public Relations Officer (PRO) Victor Villanueva launched the Facebook Page “No to UST No-Enrollment Policy on Students with Unpaid Balance.” A photo and informati on campaign was started by the group. The said page also gave birth to a group called Thomasians for Educati on Alliance (TEA). Students posted and commented on the page and shared their sentiments. Different student organizati ons and politi cal parties pledged their support for the page and its cause.

After bargaining for a compromise with the Office of the Vice Rector for Finance, the Central Board of Students (CBS) released an announcement that the six percent interest order will be deferred unti l the next academic year.

On November 14, the TEA released a manifesto stati ng their demands which are mainly to “junk the policy” and to “allow genuine student parti cipati on in the creati on of policies.” The manifesto was signed by 1,055 students, both in paper and online.

The manifesto was passed on November 17 to the Offi ce of the Vice Rector for Finance. In November 21, during the last day of enrollment, the CSC met with Internal Auditor Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O. P. and bargained for the extension of the enrollment. They also asked for the reconsiderati on of the promissory notes application.

Earlier, the CSC had a meeti ng with UST Secretary General Fr. Florentino Bolo, Jr., O.P. regarding the extension of the enrollment period. Taguiam said that Bolo was amendable to the idea, but he said that the deans of each college should be consulted fi rst because there are colleges that have already reached their target enrollment.

The CSC originally pleaded for the enrollment to be extended unti l the first week of December. The CHED prescribes a two-week extension from the first day of enrollment. On November 22, Taguiam met with Rector
Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P. and discussed the issue. Dela Rosa extended the enrollment period for four days and restored the privilege of using promissory notes to enroll.
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Year 47 |  Issue 3 |  2011
New policy draws mixed reactions
Year 47 |  Issue 4 |  2012