With the massive cuts in the budget for state colleges and universities, students could expect more increases in tuition and other fees. This would make tertiary education more inaccessible to the poor.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — The previous Arroyo administration was criticized for providing meager budgets for state colleges and universities (SUC), thereby forcing these higher education institutions to raise tuition and other fees, making it less accessible to poor students. But with President Benigno S. Aquino III’s proposed budget for 2011, things are heading for the worse.
“Aquino and his budget team should refrain from issuing statements that education is a major priority of the current administration when in fact, he is slowly abandoning the youth,” Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino said, adding that the neglect of higher education was a trademark of former president Gloria Arroyo’s administration.
In his budget message submitted to the 15th Congress on August 24, Aquino said, “We are gradually reducing the subsidy to SUCs to push them toward becoming self-sufficient and financially independent, given their ability to raise their income and to utilize it for their programs and projects.”
But Palatino said that by “allowing SCUs to generate income and enter into partnerships with the private sector would only mean higher tuition, and consequently, higher drop-out rates and decreased access to tertiary education.” He added that this “diminishes the public character of SCUs, which are supposed to provide quality and accessible education to those who cannot afford it.”
The budget for the University of the Philippines, the country’s premier state university with a population of 52,000, has been slashed by P1.39 billion ($31.52 million at an exchange rate of $1 = P44.1) or by 20.11 percent this year. Other state universities such as the Philippine Normal University, with a population of 10,000, and Bicol University, with a population 20,000, received budget cuts by 92 million ($2.09 million) or by 23.59 percent and P88 million ($1.99 million) or by 18.82 percent, respectively.
Among the SCUs with the worst budget cuts by percentage are:
• Philippine Normal University (23.59%)
• Aurora State College of Technology (22.21%)
• Cerilles State College (21.95%)
• University of the Philippines (20.11%)
• University of Southeastern Philippines (20.03%)
While the SCUs with the worst budget cuts by nominal value are:
• University of the Philippines (P1.39 billion or $31.52 million)
• Philippine Normal University (P91.35 million or $2.07 million)
• Bicol University (P88.81 million or $2.01 million)
• University of Southeastern Philippines (P44.39 million or $1.01 million)
• Central Bicol State University of Agriculture (P31.65 million or $717,687)
In a joint statement, progressive youth groups said the education budget cuts infringe on the right to education and the constitutional mandate of the government to make education accessible to all. “It is tantamount to the government’s abandonment of its responsibility to guarantee every Filipino’s right to education,” they said.
Moreover, the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) criticized the significant reduction of the SUCs budget for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenditures (MOOE) by P1.1 billion ($2.93 million) from 2010, or by 28.16 percent. NUSP national president Einstein Recedes said that 15 SUCs had budget cuts of more than 50 percent on their operating expenditures while the budget for operations of 17 others were cut by exactly 10 percent.
The SCUs with more than 50 percent budget cut in their MOOE are:
• Southern Philippines Agri-Business & Marine and Aquatic School (66.27%)
• Southern Leyte State University (64.03%)
• Central Bicol State University of Agriculture (57.96%)
• Partido State University (56.83%)
• Nueva Vizcaya State University (53.65%)
• University of the Philippines (51.85%)
• Aurora State College of Technology (51.84%).