Philippine Star - Gov’t eyes P900-M fund cut for state schools

26 March 2013

The government is looking at a possible P900-million cut in the budget of more than 100 state universities and colleges (SUCs) nationwide.

However, an increase is being proposed in the budget for basic education for 2014 as the Department of Education (DepEd) may get a bigger allocation of P255.2 billion compared to this year’s P232.6 billion.

Based on the indicative budget ceilings set by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for state agencies, SUCs will suffer a reduction, from P32.8 billion this year to P31.9 billion next year.

The death of University of the Philippines (UP) student Kristel Tejada, who committed suicide for reportedly failing to pay her tuition, has prompted several sectors to call for more funds for state schools.

Tejada’s death also highlighted schools’ practice of preventing students from taking examinations unless their tuition and other fees are fully paid. UP has recalled the policy.

The DBM issuance on budget ceilings does not detail the funding limit for each SUC.

This year, of the P31.9 billion appropriated for SUCs, UP gets nearly a third, or P9.529 billion.

In contrast, the poor man’s school, Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), which has a lot more students than UP, is allocated less than a 10th of UP’s budget. PUP has P916.8 million for this year.

The 2013 UP budget represented an increase of P3.8 billion from last year, while PUP’s outlay increased by P182 million from P734.8 million in 2012.

Additionally, UP has a huge amount of savings and an equally huge amount of endowment funds. It also receives additional taxpayer subsidy in the form of pork barrel funds from senators.

Last year, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago allocated P13 million for the construction of a building at the UP College of Law, while Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV gave the university P8.8 million for scholarships.

In 2011, Sen. Serge Osmeña gave the university P30 million for the construction of an innovation center for technology businesses at its Cebu branch, while UP-Los Baños in Laguna received P5 million from Sen. Franklin Drilon for the completion of its agribusiness center for entrepreneurship.

In 2010, Drilon poured P50 million for the rehabilitation of the operating rooms of Philippine General Hospital, which is part of the UP system.

That same year, Sen. Loren Legarda allocated P10 million for the completion of the UP College of Mass Communication’s Film Institute building, while Sen. Francis Pangilinan gave the university P5 million for scholarships.

No other state school receives as much as UP in financial assistance, not even a significant fraction of it, from senators.               

The DBM stressed yesterday that SUCs received a significant increase in allotment this year amid allegations that the government slashed its budget for higher education.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the budget for SUCs was in fact increased to P37.1 billion in 2013 from P25.8 billion the previous year.

“To say that we decreased the budget for SUCs is grossly inaccurate. As a matter of fact, the Aquino administration gave the sector a 44-percent budget boost over its 2012 allocation, in line with our goal to improve the country’s tertiary education system and expand the operational capacity of our SUCs,” Abad said.

He noted the UP System received the highest budget, amounting to P9.53 billion in new appropriations under the 2013 national budget.

For this year, the Aquino administration wants to streamline the curricula of SUCs to make it more responsive to students’ needs.

Abad said the government’s roadmap for higher education reform would “help college students fine-tune their skills so they’re primed for jobs in high-performing industries.”

The biggest increase in SUCs budget is allocated for capital outlay - pegged at P3.36 billion. The amount is 16 times more than 2012’s P190 million and would cover SUC’s infrastructure needs, laboratory equipment and other necessary facilities, that will boost their competitiveness and academic capacities.

According to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the country has 110 SUCs with 424 satellite campuses. Of the estimated 2.7 million total college enrolment in school year 2012-2013, about 1.08 million or 40 percent are in SUCs.

Among the regions with the highest number of SUCs are the Central Visayas (65), Calabarzon (59), Western Mindanao (49), the Mimaropa (47) and Central Luzon (47).

Meanwhile, two lawmakers are planning to revive their anti-no permit, no exam bill if they will be reelected this May elections.

The measure prohibits schools from denying test permits to students who failed to pay tuition or other school fees. It also seeks to impose penalties on responsible school officers.

Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, a Team PNoy senatorial candidate, and Rep. Raymond Palatino of the party-list group Kabataan, said they would re-introduce their anti-no permit, no exam bill if they win in the May elections.

“As tuition and school fees continue to increase in both private and public schools, more and more students find themselves struggling to meet the scheduled dates of payment since failure to do so would mean being disallowed by the school administrators from the examinations,” Angara said.

He said the state should protect the right of citizens to quality and accessible education.

Palatino said though the anti-no permit, no exam measure, did not pass the 15th Congress, it will be re-filed in the next Congress, which convenes in July.

“Though the bill was not enacted, we were able to convince the Commission on Higher Education and all higher education institutions to allow students with delinquent accounts to take their examinations,” he said.

However, since there was no penalty for barring students to take exams, many schools do not give test permits to students with standing accounts.- With Zinnia dela Peña