The senator who sponsored the free public college tuition clause in the 2017 national budget today assuaged fears of “unenlightened bureaucrats” that it will may be hard to spend the P8 billion allocation to cover basic matriculation of close to 1 million students of state colleges.
Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said that the current disarray in the Commission on Higher Education’s organization will not affect the disbursement of the money and the implementation of the policy. “Kahit walang chairman, may chaiman, o nag-aaway sila, hindi maapektuhan ang programang ito.”
Recto said that the CHED, to which the P8 billion will be lodged, “will not have to go through the individual records of every iskolar ng bayan.”
“This will not be retail spending on their part. All it has to do is to disburse to the 114 state universities and colleges (SUCs) the amount that their students would have paid for tuition,” Recto said.
“So wholesale ang reimbursement, so to speak, to 114 entities only. Hindi yung i-sa-stamp nila ng ‘approved’ ang bawat enrollment form,” Recto said.
Recto said apprehensions from some quarters in CHED may have been prodded by its experience of failing to spend billions of pesos in scholarship fund several years ago.
Recto also downplayed fears that his sponsored provision in the 2017 general appropriations bill will be vetoed by Malacañang.
“All presidential candidates in the last election issued the promise that tuition in state colleges will be free, kasama si Pangulong Digong,” he said.
He said the free tuition in public colleges provision “was a fact-based advocacy.”
“We ran numbers at nakita namin na at this level of public spending, in this era of trillion-pesos budgets, na kaya naman talaga,” Recto said.
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. “So ito ang basis ng P8 billion na alokasyon.”
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.
“Kaya kailangang punuan ng national government ‘yung income na mawawala,” he explained.
He thanked Senate Finance Committee Chair Loren Legarda for fighting for this provision. “She did a great job. This is a unanimous, bipartisan product. Every senator is an author of this provision.”