During my recent trip to UP, I had the fortunate experience of observing the dawn of UP registration, that is, the start of the UP enrollment process. It amazed me to observe freshies with either one of their parents, on the prowl around UP grounds – either familiarizing themselves with the surroundings or to securing a slot in a required but hard to get subject. It further amazed me to see senior high school students, still in their high school uniforms, fawning over their freshly-obtained UPCAT forms and dreaming of the course they’d like to take in the country’s state university. Then of course there are the undergrads, who are in the middle of their college journey – braving yet another registration period which marks the opening of another grueling semester.
I look at them and think that here they are, beginning a chapter of their lives, that I’ve already closed and left behind. There are times when I could see myself in their shoes and remember all those long-ago moments when I was a new student in UP – everything totally new and foreign to me. Now, I can say that there is no nook and cranny in UP which I haven’t explored at one point or another. I can remember, when the sight of the Acad Oval or the AS steps incited the thrill of discovery in my heart. Now that thrill has been replaced by nostalgia and wishful thinking of the memories forged in such places. I can recall the day when I first travelled to UP, while aboard the UP Philcoa, the first glance of the UP landmark in the intersection of University Ave. and Commonwealth Ave., stucked my breath in my throat. I was thinking, “Finally, the beginning of a new chapter in my life – a completely new life in a completely new place.” Now, when I pass by that landmark, my breath comes out as a sigh – sometimes it is a sigh of resignation that I still haven’t marched amongst the infamous sunflowers in April and sometimes it is a sigh of nostalgia of my UP years.
The most remarkable experience of my UP visit was when I paid my tuition. Having applied only for residency, and that is residency without library and medical benefits, I basically have no units enrolled (I’ve finished all my required units and I only have some other requirements to attend to). As such, my “tuition” is a meager 40php. While I was waiting for the RA to fix my Form5 (which is also my OR), I happened to glance at the other students paying their tuition. I was aghast to see one of the cashier’s counting a lot of 500php bills. I glanced at the computer monitor and saw that the student’s tuition was for 23Kphp! At first I thought she was paying for 3 students already but then I recalled that in UP, there is a sort of one student per transaction policy so it is impossible for her to be paying, all at once, for 3 students. Then it hit me! These undergrads are now under the revised tuition scheme wherein the average cost of a unit is 1Kphp. And I glanced at the other monitors and saw one paying 17Kphp! Gosh! What happened to UP education? Just because my batch was not covered by this revised tuition scheme, I cannot feel the increase at all but now seeing these students paying such hefty amounts, I can feel the reality of the tuition fee increase.
This was such a hot issue when I was somewhere in my senior years, and being a bit apathetic, I didn’t really give a damn back then. I even rationalized that this is for the good of the school so that our facilities will improve. Well, within my senior year, indeed a lot of buildings cropped up but thinking back – shouldn’t that had been sheltered by government funds and not students’ tuition? Then again, I am still dubious over the facilities that laboratories offer. In my senior year, I didn’t see any marked improvements in the facilities of my lab classes. But then again maybe because I was not paying the incredulous increased tuition and lab fees.
Yet still, I am led to ponder, what would happen to those high school student who dream of a UP diploma and a UP education. What would happen to them when they learn that the cost of a UP education is almost the same as that of a private school in their respective provinces? Would they still risk the immersion in an alien environment, far from the comforts of home and family? My sister said that her tuition fee in Ateneo De Naga rivals the 23k tuition fee of one of the UP students I saw. However, in her case she has the option to pay that on a monthly installment. In UP, tuition fee payment is always one time big time. No wonder, most UP students now parallel Atenistas and La Sallites. No wonder, you will seldom see the typical UP student of the good old days – the simple probinsyano/probinsyana wearing simple clothes and having simple means of living. UP education has been indeed thrown farther out of reach from impoverished yet eager bright minds. It makes me sad that the Iskolar ng Bayan is no longer a scholar.