HomeCommentaryScrap college tuitions, then scrimp on subsidies

Scrap college tuitions, then scrimp on subsidies

Congress forbade state universities and colleges (SUCs) from collecting tuition starting in 2018. Same with local ones (LUCs) of provinces and cities. It was bandied as the first improvement under the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.

Yet Congress forgot the basic ingredient for quality education: new money. In fact, its yearly allotments for tuition-free SUCs/LUCs have been diminishing.

The House of Representatives recently approved a P100.8-billion budget for SUCs/LUCs in 2024. It is 5.75 percent or P6.155 billion lower than this year’s P107 billion.

And that P107 billion is only half of what SUCs/LUCs need in order to maintain previous quality levels. Meaning, this year’s budget should be at least P214 billion.

That’s why there’s unrest in SUC campuses in Metro Manila. Professors and students are protesting deteriorating facilities and unfulfilled salary increases.

Affected are 112 SUCs and 121 LUCs nationwide. Pickets were held at the University of the Philippines, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Philippine Normal University, Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute for Science and Technology, and Technological University of the Philippines.

Demonstrators want P9 billion confidential-intelligence funds of high officials realigned to SUCs/LUCs. They demand payment of the last tranche of promised standardized wages for academic and non-academic personnel.

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The problem is that Congress miscalculated in 2018. That year it allocated only P65-billion subsidies for SUCs/LUCs. It was barely enough for maintenance and operations, salaries and training, new facilities and equipment, and scholarships.

Congress erred worse. The P65 billion was only for 2018’s graduating seniors and incoming freshmen. There were no sophomores and juniors. The decade-long implementation of the Kindergarten-to-Grade-12 program had interrupted college enrollments by two years.

Then Congress scrapped tuitions. In a flash, it forfeited five to 12 percent of SUC/LUC funding. Rich students who used to pay tuition benefitted the most. Only 12 percent of college enrollees are penurious but scholastically deserving.

The P65 billion subsidy needed in 2018 was projected to swell by 35 percent every three years. By 2021 it should’ve been P90 billion. And by 2024 it should be P120 billion.

Double the needed amount for 2024 to P240 billion – to cover the sophomores and juniors that the 2018 budget missed. Plus the eliminated tuition.

P240 billion is what SUCs/LUCs direly need for next year.

Urgently needed along with that amount is a review of the tuition-free policy and the supposed improved quality of tertiary schooling.

Jarius Bondoc is an award-winning Filipino journalist and author based in Manila. He writes opinion pieces for The Philippine Star and Pilipino Star Ngayon and hosts a radio program on DWIZ 882 every Saturday. Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LiCAS News.

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