Over January and February, the University Student Government (USG) led focus group discussions, dispatched campaign materials on campus and online, and mobilized students in their #AyokongMagMahal campaign for a zero-percent tuition fee increase (TFI) in Academic Year 2023-2024.
Despite these initiatives, USG President Alex Brotonel revealed in a town hall session last February 23 that the Multi-Sectoral Consultative Committee on Tuition Fees (MSCCTF) settled with a four-percent TFI, a number yet to be made official through a memorandum of understanding.
The USG opened their office to Lasallians for a placard-making session from February 13 to 17 in preparation for two unity walks at the Manila campus, which were held last February 20. The chant “Ayokong magmahal ang tuition ng La Salle. Ating tuition fee, ‘di tataas muli” resounded through the campus as about a hundred students rallied against a TFl.
(I don’t want La Salle’s tuition fee to increase. Our tuition fee will not increase again.)
“For the past few years, halos kaunti lang ang participation talaga ng mga ordinaryong estudyante. Laging USG na lang…Now, what we want is to change that narrative,” Brotonel explained regarding the lack of non-USG members’ participation in TFI talks.
(Ordinary students barely participated. It has always been only the USG.)
Samuel Yutuc (I, BSA), who witnessed the unity walks, also saw the importance of student involvement. “I believe na it’s important pa rin for other students to speak up against this issue. It may not be significant for me, but for other people, it may be something na detrimental sa studies nila.”
After holding unity walks, the USG also distributed flyers that summarized their reasons for proposing a zero-percent TFI.
“After reading this (the flyer), [I believe] there is no reason for a tuition fee increase if La Salle is able to accommodate this [many] students and to operate the whole school,” Jermaine Abenoja (III, BSA) remarked.
A total of 4,649 students expressed their solidarity in pushing for a zero-percent TFI through a signatory campaign organized by the USG last February 15 to 22.
In their proposal to the MSCCTF, the USG argued that implementing a TFI given the current financial standing of students may “make more students become inclined toward making compromises to their education”, such as enlisting in fewer courses or taking a Leave of Absence.
They also highlighted that DLSU could still be at a surplus without a TFI. However, in the town hall session, it was revealed that most of the other sectors refuted that this was not feasible. To keep the TFI at a minimum while still heeding the needs of the other sectors, the student sector suggested a one-percent increase, which was also rejected by the majority of the committee.
With word that the MSCCTF intends on settling on a four-percent increase, the USG said they plan to communicate the students’ concerns with University President Br. Bernard Oca FSC in hopes that the tentative decision will be vetoed. The last time an approved TFI was overturned was in 2021, when the University administration under former President Br. Raymundo Suplido FSC decided to drop a 2.5-percent increase due to the financial impacts of COVID-19.
The USG vowed to remain vigilant if the TFI pushes through, emphasizing that high increases are not justifiable if the students will continue to receive “mediocre to poor University services” and “false promises of improvements in the University”.
“Moving forward with the decision of the committee, we will be steadfast in ensuring that all the demands by the USG will be met by the University…This time, we will be watching. This time, we will hold the University administration accountable,” Brotonel said.
with reports from Nash Laroya