That was the occasionally amusing rage and satire of UP Students who mocked the alleged reforms of the university's much maligned financial aid program, which, despite claims of increased efficiency, was apparently no better in identifying who needs more funding to attend.
The reform of what was then the STFAP, or the Socialized Tuition Fee Assistance Program, was done in the wake of the suicide of UP Manila student Kristel Tejada, over her inability to pay tuition fees on time. UP's administration has repeatedly deflected criticism of their student aid program, saying in the past that cases like hers were isolated, and a lot of students' appeals for late tuition payment were granted, which in itself brings up some questions. If UP's financial aid grant system was accurate in identifying how much aid a student needed to attend, why do they have so much difficulty paying their tuition in time? If it was accurate, shouldn't they be, to some degree, comfortable paying the amount asked of them?
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Judging by the tweets of UP students, the reform from STFAP to STS was, to put it bluntly, cosmetic. A lot of UP students still complain about the slow and difficult process of application, and it seems that an awful lot of them don't come home with much aid either.
In other countries, there are also issues with regards to the affordability of college for students, but they aren't as pronounced, and could be guidelines for any future reforms in the University of the Philippines' financial aid grant program. In the US, tuition is very high, and the middle class often complain about getting squeezed out with excessive fees, but their method of granting financial aid is at least systematic, and is based solely on an equation unique for each university that takes income and the number of dependents into account, meaning there is no fuss over the number of toasters or you have, or if you happen to own a slightly expensive television. In Europe, countries often do away with the idea of having tuition entirely, and just charge students a minimal fee for things like maintenance and administration. Locally, schools like PUP, despite having limited funds, stand by its commitment to having a very affordable tuition for just about everybody.
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If UP has any plans on keeping its spot as the top university in the Philippines and looking competitive beside its Southeast Asian counterparts in the upcoming regional integration, then it has to step up its financial aid program, because, like it or not, it is a crucial determinant of the quality of a university. Producing good research, having a good faculty and the best student body is not nearly enough because if they don't do anything, schools like Ateneo and La Salle, which are snapping at UP's heels, will start getting these students (and faculty, mind you) that UP are privileged to have at the moment as they expand their own scholarship programs. The Iskolars ng Bayan, some of the best students in our country, deserve better than this, and in the long run, if the university's aid program stays like this, it will harm not only the students who want to study in UP, but also UP's standing as a university itself.
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