Former actress and businesswoman Ina Alegre-Cruz won as mayor of Pola, a third class municipality in Oriental Mindoro, in 2019. During her campaign, she promised to establish a community college, which she did within a few months from her oathtaking. It was on top of her budget priority. With a budget of P10 million only, she was able to establish the Pola Community College (PCC) through the renovation of the old municipal building and ensured its operational budget for one year.
And in spite of the pandemic, on August 20, 2020, the PCC was inaugurated with all its permits to operate from Commission on Higher Education (CHED) under the presidency of Dr. Carlito Matibag, a former high school principal in Pola. They now have 120 students in BS Entrepreneurship and BS Public Administration. Mayor Ina is looking forward to offering BS Criminology, BS Education and BS Agriculture, and she has instructed the management to process application for technical vocational courses under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
This writer advised Mayor Ina to offer courses related to what the community needs like agriculture, fisheries, tourism and other related courses, as well as short courses that could prepare graduates for the current demands of the job market. But according to her, based on their survey, the people have a dream to pursue—a college degree on courses they are familiar with. “Education is their dream and they know what they want and they envision to achieve that through education and as their leader, I follow that lead,” she explains as she admits that she has to respect the wishful thinking of her constituents.
Mayor Ina Alegre has made a legacy for her political career through the Pola Community College and to the people of Pola, the pride comes from the fact that now they have access to free college education. The quality of education becomes secondary, if not immaterial, to them for as long as they hold on to the dream and that a college degree is all that matters. And the Pola Community College can give them that.
To date, according to Dr. Rene Colocar, the President of the Association of Local Colleges and Universities (ALCU), there are 123 local colleges and universities on record. With 81 provinces, 146 cities and 1,488 municipalities in the Philippines, expect more local colleges and universities. With the empowered local government units and the incoming 2022 elections, expect a surge in the number of these LCUs. In a country like the Philippines, education is in the Maslow’s second level need—for safety and security.
There are sectors and educators who are criticizing the proliferation of the LCUs for issues of quality and relevance, of scarce resources to support operations, and of the politicized educational system within them. But there are success models of quality and success just like that of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, the University of Makati, and the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Valenzuela, among others. These local universities have proven beyond doubt that the competencies of their graduates are comparable with the graduates of expensive universities and of top state universities. In terms of their development as academic institutions, these universities have the infrastructure, curricula, faculty and research-capabilities at par with some of the best in the Philippines and in the world. And many LCUs have risen up to the challenge of quality and excellence, relevance and responsiveness, efficiency and effectiveness and access and equity.
It is difficult to generalize on the performance of LCUs given that there are also poor performing Catholic universities and colleges, state universities and colleges, and private colleges and universities. The local colleges and universities are equally trustworthy in pursuing their respective visions and missions as an ever-evolving and self-developing systems within systems where ever they may operate. If politics is a powerful force governing their operations, ask the church-owned institutions and private-owned schools if they don’t have politics that govern as well.
In the pursuit of what the constitution provides—that the State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels and shall take appropriate steps to make education accessible to all—the LCUs are taking their role to bring education closer and affordable to the people. And no one can deprive any LGU or LCU of that mission.
The Local Government Code of 1991 provides for clear mandates to municipalities, cities and provinces to pursue the establishment of educational institution as they may deem fit and as their resources may provide. The CHED has, since the beginning, been supportive of the establishment of the LCUs giving due recognition of their unique identities. The CHED Memorandum Order 32 of 2006 has enabling policies, standards, and guidelines that spelled out the processes towards the establishment and successful operations of the LCUs. The Department of Interior and Local Government, for its part, has also issued the Memorandum Circular # 67 of 2009 providing for the Guidelines on the Establishment of Local Colleges and Universities by Local Governments and on the Operation of Higher Education Program. And since then, there were developments, memoranda and other regulatory issuances from various government agencies as well as collaborations and partnerships to enable the LCUs in their purpose of being—a higher education institution for the people who would choose them as their partner in the pursuit of dreams.
What is most noteworthy in the journey of the LCUs is their establishment of the Association of Local Colleges and Universities (ALCU). Recognizing the importance of education as a potent instrument in nation building and believing that investment in education must be an integral component in the priority programs of every local government in pursuing its education vision for its constituents, the Metro Manila Mayors unanimously made a declaration of commitment on September 4, 1996 to support Local Colleges and Universities by respecting their organic act and implementing guidelines or their establishment and operation.
The Constitution and By Laws of ALCU was approved by the SEC on September 10, 1996. Its main objective is to promote improvement in education, research, and community service among locally-funded institutions of higher learning.
The ALCU was the brainchild of Dr. Benjamin G. Tayabas, then President of PLM. He envisioned differentiating the LCUs from the State Universities and Colleges (SUCs).
This year, the ALCU is celebrating its 25th year through the CHED-ALCU First National Higher Education Day. With luminaries in higher education led by the CHED Chairman Secretary Prospero de Vera, the ALCU will leap forward towards the post-pandemic education learning from each other and embracing their mandate as the higher education institutions closest to the people. Under the leadership of its Board of Director headed by Dr. Rene Colocar, it is ready to face the challenges of the pandemic and navigate towards education in the better normal. And with the local governments sincerely behind them, the LCUs are ready to soar high beyond the pandemic.
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