YEAR END CONSULTATION: AN UNHEEDED OPPORTUNITY TO BE HEARD

Original published at http://splat08adzumasscom.multiply.com last October 15, 2008 for the Advanced Journalism Class

“Lahat naman ‘ata tumataas na, except lang sa height namin…”, a sophomore education student laughingly shares one late afternoon. With the prices of rice, bread, and fuel all drastically going up, it is not a surprise anymore that even the school’s tuition and fees will also increase. Both parents and students say that we just have to live with the increase. But do they know that they can actually do something?

The Ateneo de Zamboanga University (ADZU) increases its tuition and fees every school year to be able to cope with the inflation rate. “When we increase, we look at the inflation rate in the locality,” says Bro. Raymund Belleza, SJ, the University treasurer. Though the school needs to augment its tuition and fees, the percentage of increase still depends on many considerations. The students’ capability to cope with such an increase and the university’s current financial status are just some of the factors that affect the increase. Therefore, parents and students play a significant role in the decision-making process.

At the end of every school year, the university conducts a year-end consultation regarding the proposed increase in tuition and fee for the coming school year. The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) requires that all increase in tuition and fees must be consulted first to parents and students. This gathering provides the opportunity for the finance committee to present the breakdown of tuition and fees and a chance for parents and students to voice out their sentiments as well. “…and our Father President Tony Moreno would be happy if you were there and you would really scrutinize our call,” adds Belleza.

According to some parents and students who attended the consultation before, what happens is that the finance committee thoroughly explains where the money goes, the percentage breakdown, plans for improvement for the school facilities, and that is it. “We don’t actually have a say on the increase. Iklaro lang bakit nag-increase, ipresent lang nila… purely information dissemination lang,” one senior student from the College of Science and Information Technology (CSIT) expresses.

“Not one came!” exclaims Bro. Raymund Belleza when asked about how the consultation went last school year given the fact that the tuition increased 7% this year. According to Belleza, the finance committee could actually make certain adjustments in the budget. Every department submits a budget proposal for the coming school year based on their projection on the number of students that will enroll in their department. From there, the committee will estimate how much they will increase the tuition.

However, the students’ apathy about this matter is one of the major problems that the committee can see. If ever, they only complain when they can already feel the heavy burden in their pockets. By then, it is too late because the Board of Trustees has approved the proposal already.

The finance committee is now trying to identify the root of the problem. One probable cause to low turnout during consultation is the information dissemination. During the previous years, they send letters to students for their parents and they post announcements in the bulletin boards all over the campus. Some students recalled that there were indeed flyers and announcements. However, they still have to improve on their message distribution as stated by one senior student from the School of Liberal Arts (SLA).

Given the present economic situation in our country, we could expect that the tuition and fees will continue to rise. Many say that we cannot do anything about it anymore. But the fact is we can actually make our voices be heard and the year-end consultation is one good venue.

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