CHED grilled on unused funds for student scholarships

Jee Y. Geronimo
'We haven't been releasing our funds as efficiently as we should. I will admit that is a bit of a challenge,' CHED Chairperson Patricia Licuanan says during a budget hearing at the House of Representatives

MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers on Wednesday, August 31, grilled the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on its unused funds for student scholarships.

It was reported during Wednesday’s budget hearing at the House of Representatives that CHED had unused appropriations of P1 billion ($21.49 million) each year from 2011 to 2013, P4.3 billion ($92.39 million) in 2014, and P408 million ($8.77 million) in 2015.

CHED Chairperson Patricia Licuanan admitted that releasing funds for student scholarships is among their major challenges.

“We haven’t been releasing our funds as efficiently as we should. I will admit that is a bit of a challenge,” she told lawmakers.

For instance, she said they do not have enough staff in their regional offices to process student scholarships.

Despite this challenge, CHED will be getting a higher allocation for its scholarship programs under its proposed 2017 budget.

Of CHED’s proposed P13.37-billion budget ($287.26 million), P5.55 billion ($119.25 million) has been earmarked for the continued implementation of its scholarship programs.

This is an increase from the P2.13 billion ($45.76 million) allocation under CHED’s  2016 budget.

“Actually, the huge increase in our budget in student financial programs [was] not initiated by CHED,” Licuanan explained.

She also lamented there has been no increase in the number of personnel that will respond to CHED’s responsibilities in relation to its student financial system.

Increasing the capacity of CHED’s regional offices is key, Licuanan told lawmakers.

“We have adjusted already our documentary requirements to make things simpler. This is evolving,” she added.

Another challenge in disbursing funds for student scholarships is the academic calendar and how it is not in sync with the fiscal calendar.

“The academic calendar is something we have to work with. It’s in the 3rd quarter that we get requests for scholarships,” Licuanan explained.

But Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano pointed out this is a recurring problem anyway.

“Why don’t we adjust the schedule in such a way that by April or May, the process is already done, and we’re ready to release the funds?” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Licuanan answered: “We will continue being responsible for scholarships and grants….We’re trying out certain strategies.” (READ: Will higher education reforms continue under Duterte presidency?)

For instance, CHED is considering a one-time payment to the recipient of the scholarship, although Licuanan admitted this is “quite dangerous.” – Rappler.com

$1 = P46.54

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.