HOW to improve the quality of state-funded higher education in the country?
Give us a higher budget, asked faculty and student leaders of state universities and colleges (SUCs) recently, by realigning the billions of pesos in confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) budgeted for next year.
While the House of Representatives already approved the P100.882-billion appropriation for SUCs in the 2024 budget, this is lower by P6.155 billion, or 5.75 percent, than this year’s P107.0297-billion allocation.
Students, faculty and staff regents, student councils and publications, and faculty and employees’ unions of four SUCs, namely University of the Philippines, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Philippine Normal University and Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology, signed a joint statement recently calling on the House and the Senate to restore the budget cut and even increase the higher education spending for next year.
This is a reasonable demand that Congress ought to consider, since
their maintenance and other operating expenses decreased while the capital outlay, which covers long-term development of facilities, equipment and other institutional investments, had the largest cut.
“Excessive and unnecessary confidential and intelligence funds should be redirected to revamp our educational institutions and sustain efforts to recalibrate and provide long-term holistic learning to Filipino youth from all walks of life,” they said.
We agree completely.
Among the problems of SUCs is that teachers have no job security due to the lack of plantilla positions in the government.
The lack of permanent teaching positions results in heavier workload for instructors, professors, including teaching assistants and fellows, the SUCs lamented.
The PUP, for instance, faces the dire prospect of a P3.9-billion budget cut from the P6.9-billion proposal of the university.
Among the challenges at the university are the shortages in classrooms and laboratories, the lack of spaces for learning and organizations, and frequent power outages.
While another SUC, the Philippine Normal University, is projected to receive a 5.8-percent increase in its total budget, 6.73-percent increase for personnel services and 1.8-percent increase for maintenance and operating expenses, these increases, however, are still not enough to address the lack of classrooms and facilities in the school that trains future teachers.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, has vowed to divert some of the intelligence funds allocated in the 2024 budget for several national government offices to cover the P4.1-billion shortfall in the free higher education program of SUCs.
Can he do it?
We expect him to move heaven and earth to give SUCs a higher budget for 2024 and subsequent years.
If he succeeds, then he would really be paving the way for a better future for the Filipino youth.