Giovanni Tapang, PhD
Prometheus Bound / Manila Times
From the middle of this week until Friday, various mobilizations and community programs will be held in most of the country’s state colleges and universities (SUC/SCU) to protest the dwindling budget allocation to our public tertiary system. It is alarming since in a span of only 12 years, state subsidy has shrunk from around 87.7% to only 65.6% of the budget of these institutions. It is also worrying since President Benigno Aquino III himself, in his Budget Message this year, said that his government is “gradually reducing the subsidy to SUCs to push them toward becoming self-sufficient and financially independent, given their ability to raise their income and to utilize it for their programs and projects.”
The president’s message strikes at the very heart of what makes a state university a public institution. State support, in the form of budget allocations, is what defines the “public” nature of our SCUs. Sadly, the real value of state support for SUCs have been flat (at around 12.6 billion pesos at constant 2000 prices) for the past decade and per capita state support for each student is dwindling considering that the number of enrollees to public institutions has been slowly rising. As the price of education in private universities (which is more than 70% of all tertiary education institutions) rise, public funding dwindles for public universities.
The flat growth of government support forces SUC administrators to rely on internally-generated income in order to finance the operations of their universities. In the past decade, some state universities have increased their tuition as a response such as the Bicol University (from P9 per unit to P175 per unit), the Philippine Normal University (from P10 per unit to P50 per unit) and the University of the Philippines (from P300 per unit up to P1,500 per unit).
The combined budget proposals of all SUCs according to the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) amount to P45.90 billion in 2012. The budget proposed to Congress by the administration is less than half that amount (P21.89 billion). The UP, as the national university, proposed an P18.53 billion budget but was only given 31% of this (P 5.75 billion) this coming 2012. UP would be getting less than last year with a P200 million cut on its maintenance and other operating expenses and P600 million on personnel services.
The UP Diliman Chancellor Professor Caesar Saloma has pointed out that instead of a P 200 million cut, the government needs to add P200 million to its MOOE budget allocation for UP in 2012 in order to maintain and operate the National Science Complex (NSC) and the Engineering Research and Development (ERDT) which is housed in Diliman. The NSC houses many laboratory equipment, computers, chemicals, and specimens that are fundamental in research and
development and is one of the most productive research centers in the country. The ERDT consortium develops research and development in the engineering fields.
The budget cut will force UP to shoulder this cost, or to reduce expenditures. Student services such as food, transportation, security and maintenance services are already being privatized in many SCUs. Auxiliary student services such as organization tambayans and their use of facilities are slowly being phased out by the lack of direct funding for these. The cost of food and dormitories has risen in the past years inside and around SCU campuses.
While scholarships and student loans do help some outstanding and needy students, they are not replacements for affordable and accessible education. The UP’s STFAP (Student Financial Assistance Program) from its very start generated income instead of providing tuition subsidies. The idea behind this program was to give students from poor families tuition subsidies while asking full payment from those who can pay. Currently, only 1% of UP students are granted full tuition subsidies from 20% of students in 1991. The rest of the 99% either pay in full or have partial tuition subsidies.
It is thus not surprising that eighty percent of our youth are not able to enter college given that public tertiary institutions are now generally inaccessible to the majority of the Filipinos due to
dwindling public support and exorbitant tuition in the private sector.
The government has to veer away from its path of privatizing public education. Public educational support at all levels is a social investment. We need to train our artists, writers, social scientists as well as our engineers and scientists now so that they can be of value to society later. That investment has to be given by government today.
It is not just a matter of increasing the numbers of highly trained and motivated men and women in science and engineering if there will be no domestic industries to go to after they graduate. With a shrinking domestic manufacturing sector, these new graduates have nowhere to go except abroad or be absorbed by foreign multinationals. Government support for education has to go hand in hand with a domestic industrialization policy to truly be beneficial to our country in the near future.###
Dr. Tapang is the chairperson of AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People. He is also currently the Associate Dean for Student and Public Affairs of the College of Science in UP Diliman.