CHEd allays fears low enrollment may hike tuition in SUCs
Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) chairperson Patricia Licuanan on Wednesday allayed a youth solon’s fear that the tuition of state universities and colleges (SUCs) may be hiked because of the low enrollment turnout due to the K to 12 program.
During the appropriations committee hearing of CHEd’s proposed P13.367-billion budget for 2017 at the House of Representatives, Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago asked Licuanan about a possible tuition hike scenario in SUCs because of the expected low enrollment rate brought about by the full implementation of the K to 12.
The K to 12 was implemented due to the passage of Republic Act 10533 or “Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013, that extended secondary education to two more years.
Under the K to 12 program, there will be one year of kindergarten, six years of elementary, and six years of secondary education (the latter includes four years of junior high and two years of senior high school).
But during the first year of full implementation this year, the additional years of primary education would displace tertiary schools of incoming first year students for at least two years, resulting in low enrollment rate.
“Given the expected roll enrollment…is there a new wave of tuition increase (that would) push SUCs toward self sufficiency to earn their own income?” Elago asked.
Licuanan assured the lawmaker that there would be no new tuition increases this year that might be a result of low enrollment rate brought about by the K to 12.
“Definitely, we are in support of income generation outside of tuition. It’s a disappointment that in SUCs, the first knee-jerk reaction to increasing their income is tuition, and that’s not what I believe was meant in income generating projects,” Licuanan said.
“There’s no increase in tuition this time, because… They are not expected to have large enrollees, but that’s okay. They’re in better shape because they still get their budget… I don’t believe that’s a danger, madame congresswoman, that tuition will increase. Not this time,” Elago said.
The K to 12 program aims to make the country’s education system at par with other countries, despite additional cost to families and problems on educational infrastructure.
While Elago lauded the proposed P56.09-billion SUC budget in 2017, or an 18 percent increase from the current budget, she said there are 57 SUCs who suffered budget cuts either in the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) or the capital outlay budget.
She said there are 13 SUCs which suffered net budget decreases—Philippine Normal University, North Luzon Philippines State College, Batanes State College, Quirino State University, Mindoro State University, Central Philippines State University, J.H. Cerilles State College, Northwestern Mindanao State College of Science and Technology, Compostela Valley State College, Cotabato State University, Adiong Memorial Polytechnic State College, Basilan State College, and Tawi-Tawi Regional Agricultural College of Science and Technology.
“At first glance, the budget for SUCs in 2017 is significantly bigger than last year’s budget. But if we analyze each component of the budget carefully, one will see deep cuts in the MOOE and capital outlay components,” Elago said.
Licuanan said the formula in giving budget to the SUCs may not be perfect, but the commission is working to improve the normative funding formula that computes the budget based on performance.
She said the basis in the proposed 2017 budget for SUCs was the budget utilization.
“The normative funding formula is not perfect. Higher educational institutions are relatively free from political pressure, where people would just lobby for increase of budget of favorite SUCs. So this system really looks at performance,” Licuanan said.
“But having said that, this year, unfortunately, it (normative funding) was not used as the major criterion. For this year, it’s budget utilization. I guess to send the message that we have to spend the money we’ve reserved for this year. I appealed to the Department of Budget and Management to ensure that we have not junked normative funding, but we have to just suspend. This year, essentially, what determined the cuts and increases was budget utilization,” Licuanan said.
Elago urged the CHEd to give SUCs the budget according to its needs and not simply based on performance or budget utilization.
“Budget utilization should be based on the needs of the SUCs. Yun ang problema ng mga SUCs, hindi level ang playing field (That’s the problem in SUCs, the absence of level playing field),” Elago said.
Elago said there is a need for SUCs to receive higher state subsidy to retain its public character.
“(There is an) urgent need for us to regain the public character of SUCs. Ang biruan nga sa SUCs, imbes na ‘Iskolar ng Bayan,’ nagiging ‘Iskolar ng Bayad.’ Gusto natin mapanalo ang public character ng SUCs (The banter about SUCs is instead of Iskolar ng Bayan, it becomes Iskolar ng Bayan. We want to retain the SUCs’ public character),” Elago said.
According to the National Expenditure Program, the CHEd has a proposed P13.367-billion budget for 2017, 38.41 percent higher than the current P9.657-billion budget. RAM