Free tuition looms for 1 M state college students

MANILA, Philippines - Close to a million students of state colleges and universities (SUCs) will not pay tuition next year if Minority Leader Ralph Recto's amendment to the 2017 national budget to exempt them from basic matriculation will be carried in the final version of the P3.35 trillion spending measure.

Free tuition looms for 1 M state college students
Sorsogon State College students. Image courtesy of
Recto's amendment to appropriate P8 billion to cover tuition cost of SUCs enrollees is included in the Senate version of the Duterte administration's first general budget.

The proposed P8 billion "Higher Education Support Fund" has been added to the budget of the Commission on Higher Education. If approved, it will be CHED that will administer the fund.

The fund will be distributed among 114 SUCs based on the amount of tuition each school is projected to collect next year as reported in the Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing (BESF) document.

For 2017, forecast SUCs' earnings from tuition is P7.78 billion out of total expected internally-generated income of P 17.62 billion.

Recto explained the P8 billion will fund "free tuition" and will not cover other school fees like dormitory use and laboratory fees.

Recto said the "free tuition fund" will guarantee that students from poor farming and fishing families, and from the urban poor will not shell out money for basic matriculation.

Covered by this endowment, he explained, are "students coming from 4P families, thus guaranteeing that the 'last mile' in their search for education is partially financed."

While Congress has the option to "simply write a provision in the national budget that state college tuition is free," Recto said SUCs will be at the losing end if the expected foregone income will not be "reimbursed" by Congress.

"Kasi doon din kinuha ng lahat ng SUCs ang ilang gastusin tulad ng sweldo, allowances, pambili ng supplies, pagpagawa ng mga gusali," Recto said.

The Senate also approved Recto's amendment to add P5.7 billion to the capital outlays of state tertiary schools, increasing its budget for buildings, equipment and other capital expenditures from P9 billion to P14.98 billion.

As a result, SUCs will get an average of P50 million each to build buildings or buy equipment, Recto said.

Recto's P8-billion "free tuition fund" and P5.7 billion in additional SUC capital outlay make up for the largest bulk in the hike of SUCs' budget, from P56 billion as proposed by the Duterte administration to the Senate version of P71 billion.

"The minority has done its part. It has redeemed the promise made by all presidential candidates in the last election that tuition in state colleges will be free. It is up to the majority to uphold this or not," he said.

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