THE COMMISSION on Higher Education (CHED) was unable to utilize P20.3 billion or half of the P39.9 billion budget for Republic Act 10931 (Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act) in 2018, the Commission on Audit (COA) discovered.
CHED cannot argue that this is a natural outcome of newly implemented laws. Right from the start, the administration has been insincere in providing free education to the Filipino youth. For instance, the law was signed on Aug. 3, 2017 but the final version of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) was released only on March 26, 2018. This seven-month delay was caused by the insistence of the government to “make best use of funds” and “target the most needy students” by inserting layers of restrictions as to who can avail of free education.
CHED has even gone so low that it ordered state universities and colleges (SUCs) and local universities and colleges (LUCs) to tighten their admission and retention policies, thereby limiting the number of students who can benefit from free education. As the report of COA reveals, there is more than enough funds to cover all students in SUCs and LUCs. On top of that, all students of public higher education institutions essentially deserve the right to free and quality education.
Also, the law already has funding for January to December 2018. Yet the government stubbornly pushed that funds be used starting June 2018. This has deprived students enrolled in SUCs and LUCs of one semester of waived fees: not just tuition, but also other school fees.
While CHED has not fully utilized the funds for free education, it permits continued charging of fees in SUCs and LUCs. It was quick to release a list of around 140 other school fees that may be collected from students, contrary to the spirit of the free education law.
Even associations of private higher education institutions decried the very late implementation of the Student Loan Program and the Tertiary Education Subsidy, which are two other components of RA 10931. These programs could have provided immediate relief to students in private schools who suffer from annual school fee increases approved by the government itself through CHED.
The COA report confirms the cry of many students nationwide: that CHED has been making it very difficult for the youth to gain access to scholarship funds and subsidies of the government.