Underutilized funds prove CHED, gov’t insincere to make college free
August 2, 2019
QUEZON CITY – CHED
was unable to utilize P20.3 billion or half of the P39.9 billion
budget for RA 10931 in 2018.
CHED cannot argue that
this is a natural outcome of newly implemented laws. Right from the
start, we can observe that the Duterte administration has been
insincere in providing free education to the Filipino youth.
For instance, President
Duterte signed the law on August 3, 2017, but the final version of
the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) was released only on
March 26, 2018. This seven-month delay was caused by the insistence
of the government to “make best use of funds” and “target the most
needy students” by inserting layers of restrictions as to who can
avail of free education.
CHED has even gone so low
that it ordered SUCs and LUCs to tighten their admission and
retention policies, thereby limiting the number of students who can
benefit from free education. As the report of the Commission on
Audit (COA) reveals, there is more than enough funds to cover all
students in SUCs and LUCs. On top of that, all students of public
higher education institutions essentially deserve the right to free
and quality education.
Also, the law already has
funding for January to December 2018. Yet the Duterte administration
stubbornly pushed that funds be used starting June 2018. This has
deprived students enrolled in SUCs and LUCs of one semester of
waived fees: not just tuition, but also other school fees.
While CHED has not fully
utilized the funds for free education, it permits continued charging
of fees in SUCs and LUCs. It was quick to release a list of around
140 other school fees that may be collected from students, contrary
to the spirit of the free education law.
Even associations of
private higher education institutions decried the very late
implementation of the Student Loan Program and the Tertiary
Education Subsidy, which are two other components of RA 10931. These
programs could have provided immediate relief to students in private
schools who suffer from annual school fee increases approved by the
government itself through CHED.
The COA report confirms
the cry of many students nationwide: that CHED has been making it
very difficult for the youth to gain access to scholarship funds and
subsidies of the government. In the case of the Student Financial
Assistance Programs (StuFAP), only P18 million out of P342 million,
or a tiny 5.27 percent, was utilized for fiscal year 2018.
CHED and the Duterte
government implemented RA 10931 only because of strong pressure from
students, youth and advocates of accessible education for all.
Unfortunately, after President Duterte has taken credit for the law,
his administration is now dozing off in its task to make sure that
collection of school fees stops.
The various excuses of
CHED for underutilization of funds cannot hide the reality that it
has been functioning as Duterte’s agency for inaccessible and