MANILA - An official of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) believes the government can shoulder free college tuition for students of all state universities and colleges in the country beginning next school year.
According to CHED Commissioner Prospero De Vera, the budget department's estimated P100 billion needed to fund free college tuition is too big compared to their P34.1 billion estimate.
CHED's calculation, he said, already includes the 4 core parts of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, which is just awaiting President Rodrigo Duterte's signature.
"Ang estimate namin, kung ii-implement lahat itong 4 na bagong bahagi ng batas, P34.1 billion lang ang dagdag na pondong kailangan, hindi P100 billion," De Vera told DZMM Thursday.
Under the proposed law, De Vera explained, state subsidy would not just cover tuition but miscellaneous fees and living allowance for poor students as well.
It also expands the coverage of subsidy to colleges and universities created by the local government, and orders the creation of a loan program for SUC students.
De Vera said if the budget department thinks P34.1 billion is still too big, they can choose to implement the law in phases, prioritizing, for example, the expansion of subsidy to miscellaneous fees.
"Kung ang ii-implement sa susunod na school year ay libreng tuition at miscellaneous sa state universities at libreng tuition and miscellaneous sa 16 na universities na created ng local government na na-evaluate na ng CHED.... So P16.8 billion lang ang kailangan," he said.
De Vera also pointed out that Congress was able to look for funds for the P8 billion tuition subsidy last year, even if the initial proposed budget submitted to the lawmakers does not include that item.
The CHED official is still hoping that the President would sign the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act into law despite the reservations of the budget department.