Kristel Tejada

A Speech on the Tragic Cost of Higher Education in the Philippines

Note from the Editor: Therese Franceazca Balagtas is one of UniPro’s interns for the summer. At our recent Staff Development Workshop, she delivered a speech on the “UniIssue” of education in the Philippines. Read on to see her thoughtful take on the controversial topic.- by Therese Franceazca Balagtas

IMG001f Sixty thousand pesos – That is the average annual cost of tuition for a student entering college in the Philippines. You can expect a high school graduate entering his/her first year of college to shell out somewhere between thirty thousand to up to ninety thousand pesos just for tuition alone.

When you ask Filipino parents about their dreams for their children, an inevitable answer would be to be able to send them to school and finish their education. This isn’t surprising most especially because the Philippines is a nation that values education. For Filipinos, education is a prized possession and a college diploma is one’s ticket to a better life. So it should also come to no surprise that many Filipino parents go beyond their means in order to give their children a decent education.

Unfortunately, in the Philippines, higher education comes with a hefty price tag. Private schools are notorious for their constant increase in tuition costs mainly because they are profit driven institutions. But even state-run universities and colleges have a difficult time providing financial support to students due to the shrinking financial funding from the government. This makes the costs of higher education stiff for many Filipino households. You’re probably wondering, how about the public school system, isn’t that free and subsidized by the government? Yes that’s true, public schools are subsidized by the government and can be attained for free or at a very low cost. However, the public schooling system only applies to grade school through high school, which means that for a college education it is expected for the student and his/her family to bear the full cost.

Earlier this year, Kristel Tejada, a student from the University of the Philippines-Manila committed suicide after she could no longer fund her own education at the university and after being humiliated due to her incapacity to do so. It is unfortunate for a student to take her own life simply because she couldn’t afford her own education. It is even more upsetting because the University of the Philippines is a state university known for their “Iskolar ng Bayan” (national scholars), and their supposed higher sensitivity for aiding students from less advantaged sectors possessing academic merit and potential.

Regrettably, her suicide is just a symptom of a larger crisis affecting the country’s educational system. Many educational institutions are notorious for implementing a tuition installment plan, which strategically places payment due dates right before exam time. These plans delay and sometimes even prevent students from taking important exams because they are unable to pay their tuition on time. During the time I spent studying in the Philippines, I’ve seen parents and students alike ask for an extension come exam time because they simply couldn’t scrape together funds to be able to pay their tuition in time for exams.

The sad truth is, many Filipino students discover at some point in their college career that they are no longer able to afford tuition. That being said, they either end up transferring to a sub-par institution or drop out of college altogether. I think the youth should not be denied access to a college education simply because of financial constraints. The government should be able to invest more in student loan programs and full scholarships, which in turn give qualified recipients a clear shot at earning their degrees. They should also keep in mind compassion for deserving students from the bottom of the nation’s economic tiers. Consider the possibility of more young people who are better trained at skills and professions because they were given the opportunity to earn a college degree. Consider the possibility of parents less burdened by the high cost of education. Think about what that could possibly do to make our society better.