CHED eyes August as start of classes for all public universities

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is eyeing a shift in the opening of all public universities and colleges to align in August starting school year 2020.

CHED Officer-in-Charge Prospero De Vera III said the commission was considering having all public universities start their first semester in August to facilitate easier implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act under the cash-based budgeting system.

‘Looking forward, what the commission plans to do is starting school year 2020, we would want to move the calendar of all public universities to August as the first semester to synchronize it with everyone because right now some public universities open in June, others open in August,” De Vera said in press briefing on Tuesday, September 18.

Why the shift? De Vera voiced the proposal after lawmakers at the House of Representatives said CHED may have difficulty with the shift to a cash-based budget system, noting the fiscal year and academic year are not aligned.

During the CHED’s budget hearing at the lower House, De Vera said the cash-based budget system would “severely hamper” the implementation of free higher education law because the fiscal year and academic year were not aligned.

Under a cash-based budget system, agencies are mandated to spend their allocated funds and deliver projects within the year. If a government agency cannot guarantee completion of a project, it will be removed from its proposed budget.

De Vera said validation processes and paperwork make it difficult for CHED to reimburse all schools by the end of the year, as some schools that start in June or July would start their second semester in November.

“You have to remember the problem with Republic Act 10931 is the universities have to claim their reimbursement, we cannot just give it automatically…. It involves the evaluation of documents ensuring only real students are reimbursed,” he said.

What happens if schools open in August? If the scenario pushes through, the move would facilitate easier allocation of funds by CHED as reimbursements to schools for the first semester of the school year may be done by the end of the year.

De Vera also said it would likewise be easier to facilitate reimbursements to schools should the second semester for all start in January.

“We will be easily able to reimburse them and then the allocation for their second semester will be put in the next fiscal year. So the cut will be clearer because their second semester starts in January…. That will be simplified if the calendar of all public universities will be synchronized,” he said.

In the meantime, De Vera noted this was merely a proposal CHED was looking into.

He said final assessments will only be made after the first year of implementation of the free higher education law and how it may be affected by a cash-based budget if passed. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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