• Up, up go school fees


    THE hazy days of a summer vacation spent in Boracay or some other place with such balmy clime will be a distant memory for many students when they return to their academic pursuit for another year only to find that their tuitions fees have been raised alarmingly.

    In fact. House Deputy Majority Leader and Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo has gone so far as to call the 10 to 15 percent annual increase in tuition fees at many private institutions of higher learning “somewhat excessive”.

    “Based on the 10 to 15 percent yearly upward adjustment in tuition fees, the cost of a college education has been rising three to five times faster than the prices of most goods and services. We find this rather exorbitant,” Romulo says.

    He adds: “If we look at the annual inflation rate, it has averaged only 4.82 percent over the last five years. In 2012, the (inflation) rate stood at just 3.2 percent, and in the first four months of 2013, at an even lower 3.0 percent”.

    The inflation rate refers to the (rate of) increase in the level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.

    Romulo pointed out that if colleges must jack up tuition fees every year in order to stay financially viable, they should at least try to keep the rate of increase within, if not closer to the inflation rate, which might be more acceptable.

    The 10 to 15 percent annual tuition fee increment at many tertiary schools implied that the cost of college schooling would be doubling every five to seven years, he lamented.

    Romulo, by the way, is the author of a House-approved bill seeking to enable the country to create more college graduates via a bold new student loan program.

    Under the program, a student may obtain a low-cost bank loan to pay for the tuition fee of the college where the borrower has been accepted. The money may also be used to pay for miscellaneous school fees, books, food, and other necessities.

    The loan would have an effective interest rate pegged to the 91-day Treasury bill rate, which last stood at 0.217 percent, or around one-fifth of one percent.

    The bank may apply an add-on 3.0 to 5.0 percent annual interest rate. However, instead of the borrower paying for the extra interest expense, the bank may claim the corresponding amount as tax credit. The lender may then use the credit to pay for or offset its tax obligations.

    “We have to produce more college graduates at a quicker rate if we want our human resources to become even more competitive in the labor markets here and abroad,” says Romulo.

    A study conducted by the Commission on Higher Education shows that the number of the country’s college graduates, estimated at 480,000 annually, is barely increasing.

    * * *

    The just concluded election seems to have given birth to a new political species—senators for health!

    According to health advocates, who were vocal voice during the campaign period, the victory of nine “senators for health” is cause for celebration.

    These senators-elect tagged as health advocates are those who voted for the passage of the Sin Tax Law and are supportive of institutionalizing tobacco control measures.

    In fact top-ranking Senator Grace Poe llamansares was quoted saying that “the imposition of a higher tax on alcohol and tobacco products is a positive step in both lessening the abuse of alcohol and tobacco and providing more funding to the larger health care system of the country.”

    Of the same belief are senators-elect Alan Cayetano, Nancy Binay, Sonny Angara, Bam Aquino, Koko Pimentel, Sonny Trillanes, and Cynthia Villar.

    Health advocates were also congratulating several representatives-elect in the lower house who were frontrunners in the battle to pass the Sin Tax Law, specifically, Reps. Henedina Abad of Batanes, Isidro Ungab of Davao City, Jorge Banal of Quezon City, Walden Bello of Akbayan Partylist, and Niel Tupas, Jr of Iloilo.

    “We are very happy with the turnout of this season’s election. With these senators in our Congress, we have better chances of getting heard. We are hoping that more tobacco control legislation and mechanism shall be in place in the coming years,” claimed Engr.
    Emer Rojas, President and Founder of the New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP). NVAP is a non-profit, non-government cancer support, tobacco control, and person with disabilities (PWD) advocacy organization.

    “Following the World Health Organization Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC), our country still needs implementing laws for pictorial health warnings in cigarette packs and smoke-free environments, among others. Given the successful passage of the sin tax law, we believe that these can be done especially with our health champions in Congress,” explained Atty. Irene Reyes, Managing Director of HealthJustice.

    “We look forward to working with these champions as we work to reduce the thousands of deaths and diseases caused by tobacco. This victory is not just for our new senators but also for the whole Filipino nation,” concluded Rojas.



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