CHED fears losing scholars after 2019 budget cut

Jasmin Romero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 18 2018 07:27 PM

MANILA - An official of the Commission on Higher Education on Tuesday warned that a P32.6 billion budget cut may heavily affect the number of scholars, especially those in private schools. 

Officer-in-charge Popoy de Vera said the budget cut may hit continuing scholars enrolled in private schools than those who are enrolled in public schools.

“The impact will be less on scholars who are enrolled in public universities kasi libre na ang tuition at miscellaneous," de Vera said.

“Even if tuition and miscellaneous fee are free, for poor students the continuing education costs will continue to be a problem,” he added.

CHED proposed a P83 billion budget but now has an allocation amounting to only P50.44 billion, based on the National Expenditure Program from the Department of Budget and Management.

Most of the P50 billion budget will be used for the implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, thereby making the commission’s capital outlay “very small.”

Student Financial Assistance Program suffered the heaviest blow with a budget slash from P4.978 billion to P1.7 billion.

Tulong Dunong got a 251 percent decrease to P1.2 billion from P4.2 billion in 2018.

Other cuts include:

- Merit scholarships (scholarships where bright students compete) got a 2 percent decrease from P459,205,000 in 2018 to P451,782,000 for 2019
- SIDA (scholarships for the children of sugarcane workers) got a 20 percent decrease from P78,490,000 in 2018 to P65,147,000 for 2019

PAMANA, a scholarship for the children of rebel returnees, has no allocation this year, as well as subsidy for medical students in 8 SUCs. Some 1,200 students under the medical program are bound to lose their scholarships.

Scholarships for medical students didn't receive allocation last year either but through realignment in Congress, the program continued.

“We put this program in place so that we will increase the health manpower. We lack doctors in this country especially in far-flung areas," de Vera said.

“That's why in 8 state universities we are giving free tuition to the students with a return service agreement, so once they graduate they can stay in the country for 4 years."

If continuing scholars qualify for the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES), they will be “okay,” said De Vera.

TES supports students, in public and private higher education institutions, from the poorest households by allotting a P40,000 stipend per year.

The problem is they still don't know how many Tulong Dulong scholars will be qualified for TES.

Otherwise, CHED will have to appeal to Congress for funding.

“We have brought this to the attention to the House of Representatives when we submitted the budget, and the House of Representatives has promised to look into it and to see what they can do," de Vera said.

For the PAMANA scholarship, de Vera said they have brought the matter to Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

“The promise of the rebel returnees is the future of their children will be taken cared of. But if you don't allot money for it, they cannot continue the schooling," he said.

The budget cuts may be significant but at least the government is spending more for higher education, said de Vera.

The total government budget for higher education increased to 3.9 percent from 3.3 percent, in 2017 to 2019.

Total education budget, meanwhile, increased to 17.57 percent in 2019 from 12.76 percent in 2017.

However, the budget is still lower than most of Southeast Asian countries, 3.5 percent in Indonesia (2015), 4.82 percent in Malaysia (2016), and 7 percent in Singapore (2013).

The budget for SUCs also increased, with the University of the Philippines taking the biggest chunk.

“Out of the P16.4 billion, 25 percent of this goes to the UP system. So yung other 112 SUCs have to divide the rest of the 75 percent," De Vera said. 

"We are not saying that the budget of the UP System should be reduced, it should be increased. But the increases should also go to the other state universities and colleges.”