Students' Guide to CHED Memo Order 14

 

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Prepared by the National Union of Students of the Philippines
January 2006


Q: What is CHED Memorandum Order No. 14 or CMO 14?

A: CMO14, entitled “Guidelines and Procedures to be observed by Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) intending to increase Tuition and Other School Fees and introduce New Fees” is the Commission on Higher Education’s (CHED’s) response to the growing resistance of Filipinos over increasing tuition and other fees, which render access to education more difficult during these times of economic hardship and crisis. It is the revised guidelines (the previous guidelines being CHED Memorandum Order No. 13) to supposedly regulate tuition and other school fees. It has the following salient features:

1.) it covers not only tuition but “other school fee” increases including “new fees”

2.) allowable increase in both tuition and other fees less than or equivalent to the prevailing year’s inflation rates, shall not be subjected to consultations;

3.) increase of tuition and other fees over the prevailing year’s average inflation rate shall require a constitutional process with the concerned sectoral representatives.

4.) New fees shall be for actual specific student services rendered as may be identified by the school authorities and certified by the recognized student council and faculty association;

5.) Submission of a Certificate of Agreement signed by the duly authorized representatives of the HEI’s Administration, Student Councils/Governments, Faculty, Alumni and/or non-teaching permanent associations whenever applicable in cases that application of new fees are initiated and agreed upon by the students.

6.) The recognized student publication should be allowed to cover the consultation.

7.) The Higher Education Institutions shall submit all annual report on increases in other fees and as to how they were utilized.

8.) Organization of the Task Force on Tuition and Other School Fees at the Regional levels, in lieu of the Multi-Sectoral Committee on Tuition Fees.

9.) For applications referred by the CHED Regional Offices to the Regional Task Force on Tuition and Other School Fees, the CHEDROs shall enclose the application with its recommendation to the Executive Director within 30 days upon resolution by the Task Force but in no case later than April 15 of the year the intended increase shall be implemented

Q: How is CMO 14 different from CMO 13?

A: Unlike CHED Memorandum Order No. 13 (CMO 13), CMO 14 covers not only tuition increases but other fees and new fees as well, which include but are not limited to, miscellaneous fees, library fees, development fees and similar fees unilaterally imposed by school administrators on its students. It is important to note that CMO 14 actually does away with the consultation process altogether, provided that the proposed tuition or other fee increase is not higher than the inflation rate (i.e. the prevailing inflation rate is used as an index to tuition and other fees). This of course runs counter to the students’ assertion that all schools intending to increase tuition and other fees irrespective of the amount, must be subject to consultation among its constituents.

Q: How will the CHED regulate the tuition and other fees according to the memorandum?

A: CMO 14 allows unilateral increases in tuition and other fees by school administrators without consultations with its students if the rate of increase is less than or equivalent to the prevailing year’s inflation rate. Moreover, the school administration can go about its increases without the need for massive information dissemination to its student body on the impending fee increases.

§ Again, student consultations with the school administration will only commence if the proposed rate increases in tuition and other fees are above the prevailing year’s inflation rate.

§ At this point, CHED is employing a false sense of logic for using the prevailing inflation rate as an index to the rate of tuition and other fees. It is illogical to raise the rates of fee increases at a time when the prices of basic commodities (based on Consumer Price Index) rapidly increase, for instance, with the inflation rate at 12 percent. Rendering the tuition and other fee rate ceiling also at 12 percent would only mean a higher price for education at a time when students’ families deal with steeper prices of rice, oil, transportation, food and basic utilities. Enrolment would definitely decline due to the ensuing higher cost of education.

As a result, this policy of CHED would only mean a narrower access to education and endanger the rights of the students. By allowing increases without student consultations, the CHED is institutionalizing the annual increases in tuition and other fees and new fees as students are stricken of their role to confront these increases through student consultations. There must always be student consultations regardless of how small or big the rate increases will be.

Q: Will the tuition increase for incoming freshmen still be exempted from consultation with the student council?

A: Yes. The increase of tuition for incoming freshmen is also exempt from consultations with the student council.

§ Such provision in the new memo provides the leeway for the school owners to still use the ladderized tuition scheme or the carry-over scheme. This is a form of automatic tuition increase, wherein the tuition rate of a first year student is carried-over until he/she graduates when in fact, in the same school year, the tuition of freshmen students compared to other year levels is lower.

Q: What if our school administrators do not increase other fees and create new fees instead?

A:
New fees should be specific student services rendered such as internet fees, library fees, medical fees and the like. These fees must not be lumped together in the form of vague fees such as miscellaneous fees in which the proceeds of the fees are unclear. Moreover, this must be duly certified by the recognized student council.

Development fee, cultural fee and other fees which are ambiguous must not be collected or rather scrapped.

§ We must also take note that we have the right to question ambiguous fees and demand that these be cancelled. And if we found out that these fees are not used for actual services rendered to us, we can also demand for a refund!

Q: When are we to expect the tuition and other fee consultations?

A: Student consultations must be made not later than FEBRUARY 28 prior to the Academic Year (AY) the intended Increases shall take effect. Notices of the student consultation must be posted at least 30 days in conspicuous places such as school lobbies, corridors, classrooms, gates and entrances and administration buildings to ensure the dissemination of information and greater student involvement.

Q: Who among the students will attend the student consultation?

A: The supreme student council is allowed at least three representatives. In absence of the student council, all recognized student organizations are allowed a maximum of THREE representatives during the student consultation. The student publication is also allowed to cover the consultation.

Q: What are the documents that we must see first before coming up with a decision?

A: CMO 14 ensures that copies of the school’s latest audited financial statement and tuition utilizations must be made available to the student council during the consultation. Check for the following details:

§ 70% of the tuition increase must have been utilized for payment of increases in wages, salaries, and benefits of teaching and non-teaching personnel and staff

§ 20%of the same should have been used in the improvement of school buildings, facilities, equipments and other costs of operation like electricity, maintenance, etc.

§ the previous year’s other school fees and new fees were actually spent for the specific student services rendered (development fees, internet fees etc.)

§ for what purpose is the increase in tuition

Try to ask help from the experts or maybe your own accounting students to interpret the financial statement so to know the validity of the school’s claims and use material evidences to support your claims.

Do not forget to consult with your constituents on the pending fee increases, present your analysis and stand and document the result of your own consultations with the students.

Q: What can we do in case there are violations in the in provisions mentioned above?

A: We may always refuse to sign the attendance sheet that is required to furnish the Certificate of Conduct of consultation (CCC) and the Certificate of Agreement if we believe that there are violations in the consultation process.

§ The Certificate of Conduct of Consultation (CCC) is a certificate that must be notarized and signed accordingly by the school head and the sectoral representatives in the consultation, which include the alumni, faculty, non-teaching staff and the students. In addition, the document must be countersigned by the President of the Student Council to assure that the consultation was conducted accordingly. If the student representatives refuse to sign the certificate, it must be duly noted and submitted for notarization.

§ The Certificate of Agreement is a certificate signed by sectoral representatives, including students, during consultations for new fees provided these fees are initiated and agreed upon by the students.

*These are some of the documents that the school owners must submit to their respective CHED

Regional Offices not later than April 1 of the preceding AY the intended increase shall take effect, in order to make the increases in tuition and other fees or introduction of new fees binding, legal and recognized by the CHED.

The other documents which the school administration must submit to the CHED Regional Office not later than April 1 are the following:

§ Letter of Advice (LOA) – letter signed by the school head/university president informing the CHED of its intention to increase tuition and/or other fees or introduce new fees

§ Certificate of Compliance (COC) – certificate must be notarized and signed accordingly by the school head stating that seventy percent of the previous year’s incremental proceeds were used for the payment of increases in wages, salaries and benefits of teaching and non-teaching personnel and staff; Twenty Percent of the same was used in the improvement of school buildings, facilities, equipment and other costs of operation. Moreover, it must be certified in the previous year that other school fees and new fees were actually spent for the specific student services rendered (development fees, internet fees etc.)

§ Certificate of Intended Compliance (COIC) – certificate must be duly notarized, signed by the school head and the aforementioned representatives in the consultation, including the student representatives, and must specify the purposes of the increases of tuition and other fees, or imposition of new fees. In addition, it must be posted in conspicuous places in the schools or universities such as school lobbies, corridors, classrooms, gates and entrances and administration buildings.

§ Comparative Schedule of tuition and other school fees during the current AY and the proposed increases for the ensuing AY with the differences expressed in peso and percentage terms

§ Annual Report on the increases in other fees and intended utilization

Q: What’s next after the consultation process?

A: We must file our complaint to the CHED Regional Office (CHEDRO). The CHEDRO must act on the application of Higher Education Institutions for increases in tuition and other fees or new fees within thirty days from the filing of the application but not later than April 15. If CHEDRO fails to act within the scheduled date, it will be deemed approved. In cases of unresolved disputes on tuition and other fee increases, and new fees, it must elevate these cases to the Regional Task Force on Tuition and Other School Fees.

The Regional Task Force on Tuition and Other School Fees will serve as a recommendatory body for all disputes on applications for increases of tuition and other fees and imposition of new fees under the jurisdiction of the concerned CHED Regional Office. If the task force fails to act within thirty days from receipt of disputed cases shall result in the implementation of the increases in tuition and other fees and/or new fees.

The Task Force is composed of the following members:

i. CHED Regional Director – Chairman
ii. NEDA Regional Office – Vice-Chairman
iii. Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC)
iv. Coordinating Council for Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA)
v. Association of Christian Schools, Colleges and Universities (ACSCU)
vi. Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP)
vii. Regional Faculty Union Representative
viii. Regional Student Representative – designated by the National Youth Commission
ix. National Anti-Poverty Commission

The Executive Director’s Office shall handle disputes on tuition and other fee increases and imposition of new fees unresolved by the Regional Task Force.

Q: What happens if our school already collected the fees but we still have a pending case?

A: If tuition and other fee increases are disputed by students or other concerned parties, proceeds from the increases shall be deposited in escrow until the case is resolved and the fees returned to the students or distributed accordingly.

Q: What are the sanctions if the school owners are found to have violated the memorandum?

A: The school shall be:
1. Barred from implementing tuition and other fee increases, and new fees
2. Subjected to administrative cases, including its responsible officers
3. Imposed penalties such as revocation of permits, downgrading of status, phase-put orders and other penalties deemed proper by the CHED

Q: What then is our role as student leaders in the wake of these circumstances?

A: Student councils must be adamant in keeping a tight watch on their respective CHEDROs and Regional Task Force on Tuition and Other School Fees to ensure that these offices take proper action regarding the disputes in tuition and other fee increases or new fees. If the CHEDRO or the Regional Task force merely sits on the cases for thirty days, it will be grossly disadvantageous to the students as the increases and new fee impositions will automatically be approved without the need for exhaustive deliberations and consultations by the two CHED bodies with the school administration vis-à-vis the protesting student councils.

In principle, such a bureaucratic process of dispute resolution is definitely against the interests of the students with respect to their rights and access to education. It favors school owners by automatically approving their applications for increases and new fees in the event of inaction by these bodies, instead of outright deferment until such time in which the bodies may convene and deliberate on the cases. As such, the right and access to education of the students are reined in at every step of the dispute resolution process.

Q: Is the composition of members of the Regional Task Force democratically representative of the stakeholders of education?

A: The composition of members of the Regional Task Force on Tuition and Other School Fees is totally objectionable to the interests of the students, especially those with dispute cases with their schools. Almost half (four out of nine) of the members of the task force are representatives of the four largest associations of school owners across the country (CEAP, COCOPEA, PASUC, ACSCU), in which they would expectedly deliberate or vote in favor of the HEIs applying for increases and new fees, as it is in their best interest as associations of school owners to do so. Meanwhile, the student sector, the main stakeholder in any educational institution, is accorded only one slot in the task force to defend the interests of the students and their right to education. For example, in cases like voting on tuition disputes, the lone student representative will easily be outvoted by the school owners. As such, the composition of members is totally unfair and undemocratic.

Besides, a mere recommendatory body should not have implementing powers to approve increases in tuition and other fees and new fees if they fail to act on the cases. It is better to immediately place this burden to the CHED Office of the Executive Director to ensure a fairer deliberation of the cases and allow the participation of the student council/representatives concerned.

Q: Should our struggle then stop when we have reached the highest level of the dispute resolution process, which is at the Office of the Executive Director?

A: This is not an indication that the demands of the students to stop the impending increases in tuition, other fees and new fees will be ensured. School owners will try to block our paths to our right to education in every step of the way, from the student consultations in the schools to every stage of the dispute resolution process up until the CHED Office of the Executive Director. Like past CHED memoranda, the CHED Memorandum No.14 in itself is flawed in the sense that it again favors school owners rather than recognizing the need of the youth to accessible and quality education.

Q: What is the significance of CMO 14 in the context of the how the government regards its obligation to education?

A: It is apparent that CMO 14 is at best a token response to the public clamor against excessive and skyrocketing school fees. By institutionalizing the annual increases in tuition, other fees and new fees, students are stricken of their role to confront these increases through student consultations. It is paramount to the government condoning unabated tuition hikes as long as these do not exceed the inflation rate.

To make matters worse, since CMO 14 covers not only tuition but other fees and new fees as well, this would mean that the said fees may now also be increased and imposed with impunity as long as these adhere to the ceiling rate (rate of inflation). What is even more glaring is the concept of a ceiling rate in the first place.

In light of the economic woes plaguing the Philippines, it is unreasonable to expect students and their families to be able to afford higher tuition and to pay additional and higher fees during a period of soaring oil prices, rising cost of basic commodities and most recently the imposition of the Expanded Value Added Tax (EVAT). Clearly the students and the public in general will continue to be at the losing end in this set-up as long as no serious attempt is exerted to genuinely take into consideration the concrete conditions of Filipinos being able to afford a more expensive education.

Q: What are our alternatives and calls to further our democratic right to education?

A. In light of the worsening economic conditions we demand the following:

1. That tuition and other fee increases imposed by our school administrations be thoroughly examined by all the stakeholders
2. That the students are properly and thoroughly consulted on each and every increase in tuition and other fees irrespective of the amount of increase
3. That the suitability of CMO 14 be critically examined from our concrete experiences during its implementation
4. That there be an immediate review of CMO 14 and that more consultations among different stakeholders be conducted on a nationwide basis to draft a more comprehensive and satisfactory document or even a proposed legislation regarding the matter of tuition.
5. That our call for a nationwide moratorium on tuition and other fee increases in all colleges and universities be heeded

The only effective way to advance our demands as students is through the broad unity and collective action of our sector to genuinely fight for our democratic right to education.

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