Who are the real parents of free tuition at SUCs? Who will really benefit?


    IN the throes of the Bay of Pigs disaster during his presidency, John F. Kennedy turned for consolation to the old saying: “Victory has a hundred fathers; defeat is an orphan.”

    The old proverb actually reads: “Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan.”

    It means that many people will seek credit for success, but few will accept responsibility for failure.

    We think of the proverb today as we marvel at the unprecedented success of the proposed free tuition bill (Republic Act 1093) in hurdling both Houses of Congress.

    The tuition law passed Congress in unprecedented fashion. All members of the House of Representatives and the Senate voted for Republic Act 1093, the law that mandates free tuition and other school fees for state and local universities as well as technical vocational institutions.

    The nearly universal support is commendable.

    With so many legislators as authors, it seems unusual that anyone would claim to be its author. The truth is different versions of the bill have been filed in Congress by various legislators at different times.

    According to our columnist Rigoberto Tiglao, many senators and congressmen of contrasting political colors have rushed over the years to author and introduce versions of a free tuition bill. Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Sen. Bam Aquino apparently filed their own bills. Former President Gloria Arroyo, who wanted to be known as the “Education President,” filed bills in the House of Representatives that eventually evolved into RA 1093.

    The way we see it, there is no existential need to determine the precise parentage or authorship of the legislation. It is far more important to ensure that RA 1093 will have the funding necessary to meet the almost certain wide public demand for a free college education. We need our education system to have the administrative capacity to provide a quality college education to those of our young people who desire it. Education quality is more important than the number of college graduates we turn out from our state colleges and universities.

    In the same spirit, our educators and policymakers should also answer the objections of those who question the wisdom of the law, because 1) it is not affordable and could bankrupt the public treasury; or because 2) the law is anti- poor, it will mainly benefit the rich.

    Both objections are mistaken.

    First, the nation can afford the budgetary outlay. The initial estimate of a P100-billion cost for the law is exaggerated and mistaken. With judicious budgeting and thoughtful assignment of spending priorities, ample funding can be found for the program.

    The claim that it’s the rich who will benefit from free tuition is misguided and mistaken rhetoric. It is ignorant of the real composition of enrollment today in state colleges and universities, the great majority of whom come from the country’s lower-income classes.

    We think our people should rejoice at the thought that the acquisition of a good college education is an aspiration shared across our land. The state‘s policy should be to squarely meet public demand, not run away from it.


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