Senator Win Gatchalian stated that he wants to address the estimated P4.1 billion in deficiencies for free higher education in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) in the next fiscal year, pressing the need to ensure quality in the delivery of higher education.
During the hearing on the proposed 2024 budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and SUCs, Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) President Dr. Tirso Ronquillo reported that the projected Program of Receipts and Expenditures for 2024 is P25.8 billion. However, the National Expenditure Program (NEP) only allocates P21.6 billion for free higher education in SUCs. The Program of Receipts and Expenditures is based on tuition and other school fees multiplied by the enrollment rate.
Dr. Ronquillo also explained during the hearing that for fiscal years 2022 and 2023, SUCs also faced deficiencies in free higher education funding. For 2022, SUCs had a deficiency of P2.8 billion. In 2023, their deficiency amounted to P4.2 billion.
“The problem with the deficit is that it will eat into the cash flow of our SUCs. Meaning, they cannot invest in laboratories, in classrooms, or in other facilities. In other words, we cannot deliver the quality education that we are aiming to deliver because obviously, in the delivery of quality education you also need facilities, you also need laboratories,” said Gatchalian.
The lawmaker noted that despite the increase in the number of college students receiving free higher education, the increase in the budget has not been commensurate. In 2022, there were 1.6 million student-beneficiaries of the free higher education program while 1.7 million students benefited in 2023. For each fiscal year, the allocation for free higher education in SUCs amounted to P18.7 billion. PASUC projects that 1.8 million students will avail of free higher education for 2024.
The UNESCO Institute for Statistics also revealed that as of July 29 this year, the tertiary education participation rate in the Philippines is 51.38%, the second highest in the ASEAN after Singapore’s which is 91.08%.
“I will really work hard to find that P4.1 billion to fill in the gap next year. Kaya nga Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education ang tawag sa batas. We’re not only after access, we’re also addressing quality, but the deficit can slowly erode quality,” the lawmaker concluded.