P100B needed for free tuition in state schools
A whopping P100 billion will be needed to fully subsidize tuition in state universities and colleges (SUCs), the country’s economic managers said on Tuesday.
At the first congressional hearing on the proposed P3.767-trillion budget for 2018, the economic managers of the Duterte administration confirmed that free tuition in SUCs would not be funded by the budget proposal.
The bill subsidizing the education of students in SUCs, local tertiary schools and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda)-accredited institutions is awaiting President Duterte’s signature.
It will lapse into law on Aug. 5 unless vetoed by the President.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno argued that unlike free basic education, which was mandated under the 1987 Constitution, subsidizing the schooling of tertiary education did not make sense from an economic perspective.
“College education benefits the individual, not the society. Yet we recognize we want to help the poor get free scholarships,” he claimed.
Diokno explained the free college education bill would set back the government by a significant amount, as this would also extend to constituent universities and local SUCs like the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and the University of Makati.
“We estimate that it will cost us something like P100 billion,” he said, adding:
“The government cannot afford that.”
Diokno and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, who was also present at the budget hearing, expressed opposition to the Free College Education Bill.
In 2017, Congress diverted P8 billion originally meant for public works projects in Muslim Mindanao into the budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) for free tuition and other school fees in SUCs.
But the P8-billion allocation is missing from the new budget proposal for 2018. In fact, CHEd suffered a P6.29-billion budget cut.
Explaining the omission, Diokno noted that “in the absence of any law, we cannot appropriate money for free tuition,” he said.
But Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago called him out on his claim, noting that the proposed budget for 2018 had earmarked funding for the yet-to-be-passed national ID system.
“By not retaining the program of free tuition, and basing subsidies only on scholarships … this [omission] is a huge step back in terms of pursuing free public education,” she said.
Pernia responded by saying that the bill “will have very little impact on poor families for enrollment in college.”
He said government data showed that only 12 percent of the poor could actually enter SUCS.
“Tuition is only one third of the cost of education. The bigger balance, which is 60 percent, is living expenses and other fees,” he said.