‘Perfect storms:’ SUCs demand over P2B from CHEd due to over enrollment
MANILA, Philippines — Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) Chairman Prospero “Popoy” de Vera III lamented that state universities and colleges (SUCs) are demanding over P2 billion in collectible supplemental funds from the department, even when responsibility over SUC budgets was transferred to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) as of 2022.
“The collectibles being claimed by the SUCs [are] already more than P2 billion. We do not have that kind of money in CHEd,” said de Vera at a Thursday tertiary education hearing by the Senate committee on higher, technical, and vocational education.
Over-enrollment by SUCs
De Vera attributed the increased demand for funding to an enrollment spike triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Perfect storm ito— the same year that [budgets were] given directly to SUCs is also the COVID period where SUCs dramatically increased enrollment… May mga SUCs na umakyat ang enrollment by as much as 30% during COVID… kasi hindi makapagbayad ang mga bata sa private schools,” he explained.
(This is a perfect storm— the same year that budgets were given directly to SUCs is also the COVID period where SUCs dramatically increased enrollment… Some SUCs increased enrollment by as much as 30% during COVID… because kids could no longer afford private schools.)
“The system cannot compensate for the dramatic increase in enrollment. Even the DBM would not be able to predict the dramatic increase in the enrollment of state universities and colleges, so the computation becomes very difficult during this period,” added the CHED official.
When asked by committee chairman Sen. Chiz Escudero for the reasons that SUCs admitted students over their budget ceiling, the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges’ (PASCU) legal representative was unable to provide an answer.
“Kahit anong kabog niyo sa pintuan sa CHEd, wala silang perang [magbibigay] sa inyo. Ang dapat niyong takbuhan ay Kongreso na magpasa ng supplemental budget kung may de perang makukuha ang DBM,” clarified Escudero, addressing PASCU’s counsel.
(No matter how hard you knock on CHEd’s door, they will not be able to give you anything. You should be running to Congress to pass a supplemental budget should DBM see an increase.)
PASCU is set to provide a report on actual SUC costs against the DBM’s provided budget, as its legal representative Atty. Luzviminda Rosales assured at the hearing.
CHEd relieved of subsidy duties
Prior to fiscal year 2022-2023, SUCs were funded on a reimbursement basis: SUCs would bill the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) board under CHEd against its certified tuition and other school fees; CHEd would then process, approve, and disburse funds.
From 2022 onwards, however, SUCs directly received their tertiary education subsidies from the DBM at the beginning of the year.
“Kung ano yung billing po nila, binabayaran po ni CHEd. But beginning FY 2022, the budget for SUCs are already released by CHEd to them directly,” explained auditor Aldrin Candelario of the Commission on Audit (COA).
(CHEd pays for whatever they billed. But beginning FY 2022, the budget for SUCs are already released by CHEd to them directly.)
“So ‘pag meron man pong kulang sa budget versus actual expenses, for example ng SUCs, wala pong accounts payable na nare-recognize ang CHEd based on records,” he added, confirming that CHEd is not responsible for reimbursing excess costs made by SUCs.
(So if the budget is lacking versus actual expenses, for example in SUCs,CHEd does not recognize any accounts payable based on records.)
De Vera asserted that SUCs could no longer demand funding from CHEd as over P20 billion in subsidy funds were cut from the department’s budget to be directly distributed by DBM among the SUCs.
“What Congress did was to take away more than P20 billion from the budget of CHEd and subdivide it and give it directly to the GAA of individual SUCs. So after that, we have no more legal basis to deal with the SUCs. We have no dealings with them as far as their reimbursement is concerned,” said de Vera.
However, de Vera also stated that a provision in the national budget for 2022 does direct SUCs to CHEd for budget adjustments, even when the department was discharged of the necessary funding.
“Ang ginawa nila sa budget ng 2022, naglagay ng special provision doon na kung kulang yung na-allocate sa mga SUCs, puwede daw nilang singilin sa CHEd,” he said.
(What they did under the 2022 budget was to include a special provision stating that if the budget allocated to SUCs is insufficient, they can charge CHEd.)
“So two perfect storms ito: tumaas ang enrollment ng SUCs, binigay yung pera sa kanila, sisingilin daw kami ‘pag may kulang— pero yung budget na binigay sa CHEd ay kulang na nga because it was cut,” de Vera added, stressing the conflict in these procedures.
(So these are two perfect storms: enrollment in SUCs spiked, the money was given to them, we and would be charged if it’s insufficient— but CHEd’s budget is now lacking because it was cut.)