Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Congressman Win Gatchalian has questioned the budget cuts for 59 state universities and colleges (SUCs), saying the move to reduce the funding of schools is “very anti-poor”.
Gatchalian said this in reaction to reports that some SUCs will have their budgets for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlay (CO) slashed despite an across-the-board increase in budget for salaries.
Mindanao State University, for one, will have its funding shrunk to P274.2 million from P418.8 million. The CO budget of the University of the Philippines for next year, meanwhile, will decrease by P2 billion.
“Decreasing the budget of SUCs for MOOE and CO is very anti-poor as it will most likely force them to look for ways to supplement their meager budgets, such as increasing tuition and other fees,” said Gatchalian, a majority member of the House Committees on Higher and Technical Education and on Basic Education and Culture.
Gatchalian is the author of House Bill 5905, also known as the “Free Higher Education Act,” which will fully subsidize tuition fee in all SUCs for all current and future enrolees provided they maintain good academic and moral standing. The measure has already been approved at the committee level.
“Budget cuts will limit the access of students from indigent households to quality higher education and thus hinder them from getting opportunities that will allow them to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty,” explained Gatchalian.
In the Family and Income Expenditure Survey 2012, a household led by a college graduate earns an average family income that is more than twice that of a family headed by one who has only finished high school.
Gatchalian maintained that the purpose of SUCs is to give students from poor families access to quality education. Says the Aquino administration’s “Roadmap for Public Higher Education Reform”: “The main rationale for the creation and maintenance of state universities and colleges is to provide access to more affordable, good quality education for the poor and disadvantaged, to ensure equity of access to higher education while at the same time serving as instruments of development in their regional and national contexts.”
The said Roadmap has even identified this lack of access in the three “fundamental and long-running weaknesses” of higher education in the Philippines. Other weaknesses are “lack of overall vision, framework, and plan for higher education” and “deteriorating quality of higher education.”
Gatchalian maintained that SUCs should focus on providing quality higher education instead of revenue generation.
“SUCs should be busy with their primary task to educate the country’s future leaders and contribute research that would aid the country in its quest for development, instead of looking for sources of revenue because of budget cuts by the government,” said Gatchalian.
The Valenzuela City lawmaker added: “Ironically, while two general objectives of the government’s higher education reform is to make the quality of higher education better and to expand the access of the poor to quality higher education, the reform also seeks to rationalize higher education, which pushes for revenue generation.” (Monica Cantilero)