About P8.3 billion were realigned in the 2017 budget of CHED to free the tuition of students in state universities and colleges
The State universities and colleges (SUCs) in the Philippines will charge zero tuition fee to their students starting 2017, following the P8.3 billion budget realigned in the annual budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for next year.
During the Senate deliberations on the 2017 annual budget, the P8.3 billion allocation was realigned by lawmakers to cover the tuition fee of students in state universities and colleges, which used to be paid by the parents.
The amount was reportedly squeezed out from the infrastructure budget for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which was questioned by Senator Panfilo Lacson and called the allocation as a form of a pork barrel fund.
But CHED chairperson Patricia Licuanan defended the realignment as purely for tuition fee of SUC students, which is intended to remove tuition fee from the expenses of the students.
She added that her office cannot spend more than the P8 billion allocation on anything else but will make use of the fund to compensate the schools who can no longer charge the said fee anymore.
According to Licuanan, the CHED is coordinating with other agencies in the government for the implementing guidelines on how to use the budget which will form part of the 2017 General Appropriations Act (GAA) now awaiting to be inked by President Rodrigo Duterte.
However, she admitted that it would be difficult to share or divide the P8.3 billion allocation to 113 state academic institutions, including the University of the Philippines.
“What formula do you use?”, chairman Licuanan asked, adding that the implementation would be a challenging part but quickly assured that CHED will abide by the intention of the allocation.
But CHED cannot stay worrisome any longer as the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) will address the issues in connection to the utilization of funds.
Licuanan said that her office just wants to ensure that the guidelines and implementation are defined properly to enable them to manage such huge chunk of funds accordingly.
Meanwhile, Congresswoman Sarah Elago of the Kabataan Partylist lauded the allocation of the budget and dubbed it a step in the right path for state colleges and universities.
She called it a “victory for the youth movement” after long years of fighting for the right to education. She also considers it a “great news” for the youth in the country, including their families, especially those who belong to the poor and marginalized.
“We don’t expect this to be easy. We are fighting a decades-old problem that infected SUCs with the wrong notion on tuition”, said the Kabataan Partlyist representative.