Senator Win Gatchalian on Wednesday corrected the facts and figures presented by the economic team of President Rodrigo Duterte concerning the national legislature’s push to institute a comprehensive free tuition program for post-secondary students.
The senator, who is Vice-Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, took exception to estimates provided by Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno tagging the cost of the program at an astonishing P100 billion.
“This figure is way off the mark,” he said.
Gatchalian explained that the Senate Education Committee had pegged the estimated cost of completely subsidizing tuition and school fees in SUCs, local universities and colleges (LUCs), and public technical-vocational institutions (TVIs) at approximately P30 billion. Meanwhile, the estimated cost of subsidizing tuition fees only in SUCs is a modest P15 billion per year.
“Certainly, the government can afford to make this investment for the benefit of millions of young Filipinos,” he said.
Gatchalian also expressed disagreement with NEDA Secretary Ernesto Pernia’s unfavorable assessment of the free tuition program. Pernia had earlier stated that the bill would have little impact on poor families since only 12 percent of SUC students hail from the poorest 20 percent of households.
“The fact of the matter is that ninety-three percent (93%) of SUC students come from working-class households supported by breadwinners who earn, at the very most, salaries only marginally above prevailing minimum wage rates. These people also need the government’s help,” Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian emphasized that by giving them an opportunity to increase household savings, the free tuition policy would insulate near-poor and low-income households from economic shocks which threaten to pull them down into poverty, such as illness in the family or sudden loss of employment.
“By lessening the burden of educational costs on working-class households, we are giving them the chance to build a secure and happy future for themselves and their families. This is in line with the country’s long-term socioeconomic goal of building a strong middle-income society,” said Gatchalian.