Government will only have to shell out P9.1 billion – or equivalent to its water, power and gasoline expenses in six months – to make public colleges tuition-free, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said.
“The numbers show that it is attainable and affordable,” Recto said. “Free college for all is no longer mission impossible.”
National government subsidy to 114 state universities and colleges (SUCs) will reach P47.4 billion this year, the amount in the 2016 national budget.
Each SUC then augments the subsidy it receives with what is called “internally-generated income,” mostly tuition and other fees collected from students.
For 2016, tuition paid by all SUC students is forecast to reach P7.8 billion. They are also expected to pay P4.6 billion in other fees. “The total student equity is about P12.5 billion,” Recto said.
But not all tuition would come from the students’ pockets. Government, through the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), manages about P2 billion worth of grants, Recto explained.
In addition, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) will also spend about P1.33 billion for 16,557 scholars in science-related undergraduate courses.
“If you deduct this P3.33 billion worth of grants from the P12.5 billion ‘student equity,’ it will bring down the latter to P9.17 billion, which the government can write off, if it wants to,” Recto said.
Recto said he did not factor in other scholarship programs, including a K to 12 readiness program consisting of 9,365 “faculty development grants” costing P3.5 billion. “If we include this, talagang kaunti na lang ang pupunuan ng gobyerno.”
Recto said SUCs can actually offer free college this June because they will have fewer enrolees due to the start of senior high wherein high schools will stop churning out college-bound graduates.
Under the K to 12 plan, Grade 10 finishers are kept in high school for two more years of senior high school beginning 2016. “Because of SUCs’ savings, free college for all is possible,” Recto said.
The Senate leader issued the statement after holding consultation-dialogues with administrators and students of the Bohol Island State University (BISU) in Tagbilaran City and Cebu Technological
University (CTU) in Cebu City last Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
During his visits, Recto was informed that the start of two-year senior high under the K to 12 Law, which the senator authored, will free a substantial portion of the budget allocated to SUCs for this year.
“Since there will be fewer enrollees for first year college this year, a substantial amount of the SUCs’ budget may be realigned to subsidize tuition fees or provide post-graduate grants and trainings to faculty members,” Recto explained.
Recto estimated that only about 800,000 students, from 1.34 million two years ago, will enroll in SUCs this year.
“Imagine, we need only to add P9 billion to the existing P47.4 billion in order to fund this free college-for-all program beginning next school year. Wala nang Pilipino na hindi ga-gradweyt ng kolehiyo,” he pointed out.
Recto noted that the actual additional budget needed may even be smaller, if existing scholarship grants will be factored in.
The Senate, acting on Recto’s initiative during budget deliberation, earlier restored the almost P3 billion cuts in the 2016 budget of 114 state universities and colleges.
National government spent P12.3 billion for power and water of its offices, and P7 billion for fuel, oil and lubricants in 2014, the Commission on Audit reported.