PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte remains clueless on where to source out funding requirements for his new law granting free tuition in state-run universities, colleges, and technical-vocational schools—leaving Congress to decide on how to appropriate budgets to fund such endeavor.
In his hastily called news conference at Malacañang, Duterte on Monday night admitted signing Republic Act 10931 or the “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act,” even if he had yet to see a funding source for such endeavor.
“I don’t know, Congress approved the measure and they know we do not have the money,” he said in Filipino.
Earlier, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno warned that the population of students enrolled in state schools should no longer increase or the government would have a problem on how to fund the new law, effective by first quarter of 2018.
“My immediate concerns are those enrolled in the 114 SUCs. There should be no expansion in student population,” Diokno said, without further clarifying his pronouncements.
But the Budget chief said the exact estimates on how much would the government spend for the “mandatory” provisions of the law would be finalized once the implementing rules and regulations had been crafted.
Meanwhile, the University of the Philippines System announced its immediate implementation of a no-tuition policy this school year.
UP president Danilo Concepcion, on Aug. 7, issued Memorandum No. PDLC 17-21B to all chancellors, registrars, students affairs units, deans and directors of academic units, and cash and accounting officers, instructing them to comply with the “recently promulgated Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act or Republic Act No. 10931 pending promulgation of its implementing rules and regulations.”
“While the new law will not take effect until next year, the memorandum implements the spirit of Sections 4 and 6 of RA 10931, which provides for the coverage as well as exceptions to the non-collection of tuition and other school fees,” the university said.
“No tuition and other school fees shall be collected from Filipino undergraduate students, except from students who have already attained a bachelor’s degree or comparable undergraduate degree from any higher education institution whether from public or private students who fail to comply with the admission and retention policies of the University, students who fail to complete their bachelor’s degree or comparable undergraduate degree within a year after the period prescribed in their program [Section 6, RA 10931],” the document read.
Despite such conditions, the exempted students may apply for financial assistance or discount.
Graduate students are not covered by the guidelines, but may apply for scholarship.
On the other hand, law and medicine proper students are also not qualified for tuition and other fees subsidy under RA 10931, but may avail themselves of financial assistance or discount from the UP’s socialized tuition system.
The new law, expected to make major changes in the President’s 2018 budget, initially allotted P64.6 billion for SUCs and 40,453 scholarships under UniFast.
The Palace, however, said the President considered the long-term benefits that free tuition would give to the public.
It explained that since the 2018 proposed budget was now in Congress, realignments would have to be made to fund the free tuition law.
Both houses of Congress ratified the final version of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act last May — which will provide full tuition subsidy for students in 112 SUCs, local universities and colleges, and state-run technical-vocational schools.
Unlike the 2017 budget, the proposed 2018 national budget does not have the P8 billion allocated for free higher education in SUCs.
According to Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, principal sponsor and co-author of the measure in the Senate, the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act offered more than just free education in SUCs, local universities and colleges and vocational schools under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
The law does not only provide free tution fees in SUCs and LUCs but also scholarship programs and student loan programs for the benefit of poor students.
“Through the student loan program, students can apply for financing for other education expenses outside of their miscellaneous and mandatory fees that will be shouldered by the government under the law,” Aquino said.
In addition, he said the law also provided scholarship grants to students of both public and private colleges and universities by strengthening the existing Student Financial Assistant System (StuFAP) of the Commission on Higher Education.
Aquino also gave assurances that lawmakers would make the necessary moves to ensure that the law would be properly funded and effectively implemented.
“With a more efficient use of our budget, there is more than enough fiscal space for this landmark reform,” he said.