Students in state universities and colleges (SUCs) do not have to pay tuition starting next year, following the realignment of P8.3 billion in the 2017 budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). STAR, file

Free tuition in state schools next year
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - December 17, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Students in state universities and colleges (SUCs) do not have to pay tuition starting next year, following the realignment of P8.3 billion in the 2017 budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

The Senate realigned the P8.3-billion allocation to cover tuition of students in SUCs during the Senate deliberations on the 2017 budget. It reportedly came from the infrastructure budget for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which was questioned by Sen. Panfilo Lacson and dubbed as a form of pork barrel.

“That’s purely for tuition, that’s purely to remove tuition from the student expenses,” CHED chair Patricia Licuanan said in a television interview yesterday.

“We cannot spend that P8 billion on anything else except to compensate the schools for the fact that they can no longer charge tuition,” she added.

Licuanan said the CHED is working with other government agencies for the implementing guidelines on how to utilize the budget, which will be part of the 2017 General Appropriations Act now awaiting the signature of President Duterte.

“Logistically, it will be difficult. How do you share, how do you divide up P8 billion with 113 SUCs (and the University of the Philippines)? What formula do you use?” she asked.

“The implementation will be a bit of a challenge, but that’s the intention of the P8 billion,” she added.

CHED deputy executive director Napoleon Imperial said the commission would coordinate with the Department of Budget and Management to address issues regarding fund utilization.

“CHED wants to ensure that the implementation/guidelines are defined properly to be able to manage the huge amount of funds accordingly,” he added.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago lauded the allocation of the budget and called it a step in the right direction for SUCs.

“This is a victory for the youth movement which has long fought for the right to education. This is great news for the nation’s youth and their families, especially the poor and marginalized,” she said.

“I also call on student councils and student governments, as well as the regents and trustees, to conduct student consultation summits to help shape and monitor the implementation of the tuition-free policy. We must do everything in our power to have it implemented quickly and with a positive effect on students and the SUC community.

“We don’t expect this to be easy. We are fighting a decades-old problem that infected SUCs with the wrong notion on tuition. Some SUCs may insist on violating the spirit of the Congress decision, but we will patiently and unequivocally fight them,” she added.

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