ChecCommission on Higher Education (CHED) Commissioner Prospero de Vera defends the P8.3 billion allotment for free tuition in public higher education in the 2017 budget to helppeople, particularly the poor, get university education.
This comes after CHED Chairperson Patricia Licuanan issued a statement that the P8.3B allocation will not help the poor because majority have stopped schooling and are no longer enrolled in universities.
“This view is insensitive and elitist given the demand for access and equity in higher education by many Filipinos, particularly those coming from poorer households,” de Vera said.
According to de Vera, studies all over the world show that higher levels of educational attainment are strongly correlated with better employment and higher income. Every poor Filipino student who is able to enroll in college, increases his/her chance to get employed, helps his/her family, and becomes a productive member of society.
Even if only 8% of students currently enrolled in higher education are poor, as Licuanan claims, the P8.3B infusion would still help close to 150,000 poor students complete their education. The new funding will also alert more students from poor households that they can enrol in universities.
“Besides, what was the basis to say that only 8% of the poor are enrolled in higher education? How is “poor” defined? And are the current tuition rates in the 114 state universities and colleges (SUCs) prohibitive only for poor households?” de Vera said.
“CHED officials have been asserting that the national government should increase investments in higher education. Now that the national leadership has added P8.3B for higher education, I find it surprising and even ironic that the CHED leadership says it is insufficient and won’t help poor students,” de Vera added.
De Vera also said that we should not look at the P8.3B additional allocation as a one-time stand alone fund to help students in SUCs.
CHED already has close to P5.75B worth of scholarships and financial assistance imbedded in its regular budget plus there is the Higher Education Development Fund (HEDF).
De Vera suggested that instead of questioning the impact of the new appropriation of poor students, CHED should immediately draft the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the P8.3B fund to make sure it is linked with all other student financial assistance funds available in the CHED.
The IRR will ensure that on top of the free tuition, students can also get the much needed stipends for their day to day needs in time for the June opening of classes.
“Once the free public higher education initiative is implemented this year, we can identify any gaps and compute the additional costs of providing assistance to students. Then we ca go back to Congress to ask for more funding to fully implement President Duterte’s commitment that no student will be barred from getting a university education on account of financial need” de Vera said. (DLS)