Paying for the tuition of students in state universities and colleges (SUCs) will benefit mostly rich students, according to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).
In a policy note, PIDS senior research fellows Aniceto C. Orbeta Jr. and Vicente B. Paqueo said the bulk of students studying in public higher-education institutions (HEIs) is mostly from higher-income groups.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that students from the poorest and second-poorest income households only account for 11 percent in 1999 and 12 percent in 2014 of enrollees in HEIs.
“This trend had not changed much through the years, despite the expansion of enrollment in public HEIs, from 35 percent in 1999 to 52 percent in 2014. Thus, giving free tuition to enrolled students in SUCs will benefit mostly the richer students,” Orbeta and Paqueo said.
Apart from being antipoor, paying for the tuition of SUC students will not guarantee these students will complete their degrees, because the biggest expense in collegiate education is living allowance, and not the tuition itself.
The authors said under the Students’ Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (SGP-PA), which designed to provide full funding for college students belonging to Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiary-families, provides P60,000 annually.
This amount consists of P20,000, or P10,000 per semester, for tuition; P35,000, or P3,500 per month for 10 months, for living allowance; and P5,000, or P2,500 per semester, for instructional materials.
“It is clear that the biggest cost item is living allowance. Tuition, which the proposed bill will only cover, is just a third of the total cost. Partial financing is problematic, because only the richer households have the resources to finance the rest,” the authors said.
The authors said the annual budget of the tuition subsidy, worth P33 billion, can only help 197,828 poor students, or 12 percent from the bottom 20 percent of households.
If the budget is instead used for the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFast), using the SGP-PA estimates, the budget can help as much as 549,522 students from poor households nationwide.
The authors said under the SGP-PA, which was designed to provide full funding for college students belonging to 4Ps beneficiary-families, provides P60,000 annually.
There are also dangers in case the government fails to sustain financing, particularly when demand for free tertiary education in SUCs increases.
Targeting the poor with full financing using the grants-in-aid program under the UniFast law will clearly benefit more poor students than an untargeted general tuition subsidy for students of SUCs,” Orbeta and Paqueo said.
A subsidized college education may also exacerbate income inequalities. If it is not targeted to the poor, who usually have lower qualifications, they will lose out to students with better backgrounds who are usually from richer households,” the authors said.
Currently, there are several proposals in Congress, among which are House Bill 5905 and Senate Bills 1304, 158, 177 and 198, which aims to provide free tuition for students enrolled in SUCs.
These bills’ rationale cites the constitutional provision that mandates the state to “protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels” and “take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all.
The 2017 General Appropriations Act already includes a budget of P8.3 billion for SUCs that have been barred from collecting tuition in the coming school year.
Image credits: Nonie Reyes