From ‘Free tuition in SCUs’ to ‘not available to all’

When news broke out that Php 8 billion pesos has been allotted to the Commission on Higher Education’s 2017 budget to allow for free tuition in State Colleges and Universities, the public broke out in celebration. At long last, the dream of a free higher education which the people specially the youth have long struggled for, was at hand.

KABATAAN Partylist even hailed the move as a ‘game-changer‘:

The Filipino youth celebrates and embraces this development, which potentially makes the Philippines at par with some of the great nations of the world – including Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Germany – when it comes to providing for free tuition in state schools.

Part of the statement was warning, that now it seems, turned out to be prophetic:

We must do everything in our power to have it implemented quickly and with a positive effect on students and the SUC community

How so? It turns out that when Duterte affixed his signature to the 2017 budget, he vetoed some items and put others under “conditional implementation“:

Yet, as with all new programs, there is a need to safeguard the proper implementation of the provision of free tuition fee. It is important to underscore that we must give priority to financially disadvantaged but academically able students.

CHED was quick to dance the President’s tune and clarified what would the “conditional implementation” be actually like, according to CHED chair Patricia Licuanan:

To bring the country closer to the reality of free college education, the commission will work overtime to ensure that the wisdom and specific intentions of lawmakers will be accurately reflected in the free tuition guidelines it is set to create.

It will be guided by fairness, cost recovery and alignment of incentives. CHED will ensure that the wide-reaching implications of this major reform in Higher Education will be brought about effectively, and any negative consequences will be minimized.

She may not have spelled it out, but it means that the Php 8 billion peso fund will no longer cover the tuition fee for all students in state Colleges and Universities, it will be used to further implement the ‘socialized tuition system’ and other scholarship programs in UP and other SCUs. No blanket free tuition for all.

With this, celebrations for free higher education may have to be cut short as these recent developments need the further vigilance and scrutiny of the public specially the youth. Php 8 billion is no small fund. It must be used as intended, to provide for free tuition in state colleges and universities. More on this in the following days.

Image by Deondre Ng

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