The government will need about P51 billion to fund the free tuition law, the Budget department estimated, which will require cuts in allocations for other agencies or approval of a supplemental outlay.
“Congress and the Executive are looking for ways of financing this program which will start next year –academic year 2018 to 2019,” Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said on Wednesday.
“At this time, we have a preliminary estimate of the total cost of the program, which is P51 billion [for the first year of implementation]… We will finance it one way or another,” he added.
“It will be a combination. We will have to find ways to cut and maybe if necessary we might submit a supplemental budget. That is being deliberated right now with the legislators.”
Diokno pointed out that the government’s P16-billion scholarship program won’t be enough to cover the free tuition program.
“Some of the scholarships cannot be touched. There is really a need to look for money and worse comes to worse we might submit a supplemental budget,” he added
To make the program sustainable, Diokno said state universities and colleges had been told that capacities and enrolees couldn’t be expanded prior to full implementation.
“We will not allow universities to say ‘I have more students now’ during transition,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act 10931, also known as The Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, last August 3, 2017.
The law covers 112 SUCs: eight in Metro Manila, 49 in the rest of Luzon, 26 in the Visayas, and 29 in Mindanao, as well as Commission on Higher Education-accredited local universities and colleges and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority-run technical vocational institutions.
The law will exempt all enrolled students from 2018 onwards from paying tuition and miscellaneous and other school charges such as registration fees and laboratory fees, among others.
In order to ensure merit-based admission to public higher education institutions (HEIs), the Budget department is proposing a national entrance examination for aspiring enrolees on top of tightening admission and retention policies in HEIs.
Another component of the law is the Tertiary Education Subsidy that will provide allowances for books, school supplies, transportation, and miscellaneous personal expenses to select student beneficiaries.
Students who are part of 4Ps-beneficiary households will be prioritized for the subsidy. Those who are not part of such households will be evaluated based on income.
Student loan options will also be made available for students from private universities.