Anak ng Bayan Youth Party expressed fears over the impending approval of the proposed increase in the value-added tax (VAT) rate, saying it may lead to bigger hikes in tuition and miscellaneous fees in the coming school year.

The youth group issued the warning as private schools all over the country gear up for tuition fee consultations this month until February.

Raymond Palatino, Anak ng Bayan vice president said, “With tuition fee consultations set to ensue this month to February, the proposed VAT rate hike is a convenient excuse for private school administrators to justify bigger increases in their tuition and other fees during the consultations. Since VAT covers almost all basic goods and services, which include materials and services being used and rendered in education institutions, any VAT rate hike will definitely affect current prices and school expenses, and therefore future fee rates and charges.”

About 172 sectors out of 220 will be directly hit by the projected rate hike, mainly coming from manufacturing sectors which create basic or raw materials for other products. “Given that almost all services, supplies and equipment used in schools, such as electricity, water, construction materials for new buildings, laboratory equipment, multi-media facilities, office supplies, education materials like books, maps and charts, chairs, desks, internet usage and paper among others are covered by VAT, school administrators will surely cover up for additional expenses either by increasing tuition or charging anomalous miscellaneous fee. The students and their parents will always be at the losing end,” Palatino pointed out.

CHED records reveal that tuition in private schools already went up by as much as 64.16 percent from academic year 1999-2000 to 2003-2004. This school year, 28 percent of the total private colleges and universities in the country increased their tuition fee.

He said the same fate could happen to public schools, including state colleges and universities (SUCs), owing to the massive cutbacks in the proposed education budget. “Meager funds and budget deficit in public basic and secondary schools and SUCs cannot possibly meet any increase in expenses for facilities, materials and services which are mostly covered by VAT. Such situation will force most public schools to either close down or implement income generating schemes and impose hikes in tuition and charges like processing and laboratory fees,” Palatino explained.

Palatino said a VAT rate hike will also lead to further deterioration of the quality of education in public education institutions in the country. “How can public schools upgrade and modernize its decaying facilities and compensate for shortages in chairs, desks and classrooms if the government does not give it enough money and is even pushing for a VAT hike which will affect the prices of these things? If we can’t do it now due to budget constraints, the more impossible it will be after prices have already gone up due to additional VAT,” he enunciated.

School year 2003-2004 figures show that public elementary and high schools in the country lack some 39,383 classrooms, 4.13 million seats and 9.88 million textbooks.

He warned the Arroyo administration that plans to increase the VAT rate now court early public unrest, particularly from the students. He said waves of massive student protest actions against tuition and miscellaneous fee increases and state abandonment of education will mark the first two months of 2005. #