DBM clarifies lower budget for student aid
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) clarified that the lower budget for the Commission on Higher Education’s (CHED) Student Financial Assistance Program (StuFAP) were not cuts, but alignments of several scholarship programs under the free higher education law.
The DBM made the clarification as lawmakers were alarmed after they were informed of the "dramatic" reductions in the proposed allocation for StuFAP during CHED’s budget briefing at the House of Representative on Tuesday, August 9.
It was CHED Officer-in-Charge Prospero de Vera III who told lawmakers that the StuFAP "has been reduced very dramatically from last year" from P4.73 billion in 2018 to P1.7 billion in 2019.
Among the student aid programs were the Pamana funds for the scholarships of children of rebel returnees and the Tulong Dunong program, which gives financial aid to deserving students for tuition and fees such as cost of living, books, transportation.
Why the DBM said these are not cuts: Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the programs were given smaller allocations as focus was given to programs under the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (RA 10931).
"The budget for StuFAP was 'rationalized' to make way for the implementation of the Free Tuition Law, particularly the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) component of the law which was given an additional P11B allocation in the 2019 budget," DBM said.
Diokno added, "We have decreased the budget for some programs because they are already redundant with the Free Tuition Program."
The free tuition law mandates government to pay for the tuition and other fees of all students enrolled in 112 state and 78 local universities and colleges, and all technical-vocation education and training programs registered under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).
What is the tertiary education subsidy? The tertiary education subsidy differs from the free tuition scheme. It is a program under the same law, which supports the cost of tertiary education by providing allowances for books, transportation, boarding, and supplies, among others.
Students from both public and private institutions can avail of the TES.
CHED earlier warned that the P16 billion earmarked for subsidy in school year 2018 to 2019, would only cover about 300,000 students.
CHED said it would prioritize students "who need the assistance most."
No construction: Lawmakers and the CHED also raised alarm over the commission’s reduced capital outlay, which decreased by P114 million. But Diokno said no new construction was considered in the 2019 budget as public colleges and universities "cannot expand and allow free entry of students."
"My instruction to the State Universities and Colleges is to invest in their faculty, not their buildings," Diokno said.
He added, "Remember we want not just free education, but quality education, so let’s try to get the best of the best."
More than P40 billion has been allotted for the implementation of the free higher education law for SY 2018 to 2019. Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno also said P51 billion has been allocated for the next school year. – Rappler.com