Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon traded barbs with Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chair Patricia Licuanan on Saturday, with the lawmaker saying that not only will there be budget cuts in the operating budget of state schools, but that the annual government subsidy for public universities fall short by an average of P16 billion.
Licuanan has earlier disputed the report on the new spate of budget cuts in the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) of 59 out of 114 state universities and colleges (SUCs), and the cut in the capital outlay (CO) of 40 SUCs.
“Despite Dr. Licuanan’s denial, we stand by what the data tells us. We cannot emphasize enough how cutting the operating budget of SUCs will affect their day-to-day operations,” Ridon said.
“We’ve also talked to heads of SUCs, and from what we’ve gathered, the MOOE reductions will surely have a negative impact, especially in schools devastated by past disasters, like Typhoon Yolanda,” Ridon added.
When totaled, the cuts in the MOOE of the 59 state schools amount to P477.8 million.
Western Visayas is the region most affected by the MOOE cuts, with eight schools in the region affected. At close second is Yolanda-ravaged Eastern Visayas, with seven schools incurring reductions in their MOOE.
Annual subsidy short by P16 billion
“Worse, more data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) reveals that the annual subsidy to our state schools – despite its gradual increase over the years – fall short by an average of P16 billion,” the lawmaker added.
Data from DBM’s Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing show that while the total expenditure of 114 SUCs in the country amounts to an average of P59 billion annually, the government provision for SUCs falls short by P16 billion, amounting to an average of only P43 billion since 2014, official government data show.
TOTAL EXPENDITURES OF STATE UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES 2014-2015 (IN ‘000 PHP)
|| Expenditures from government subsidy
|| Expenditures from internal income
|| Total expenditures
Source: 2016 Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing
To compensate for the lack in subsidy, SUCs are compelled to earn their own income through various means, including charging tuition and other fees, and utilizing assets.
Since 2010, the average internal income of all SUCs amount to an average of P36 billion, two-thirds or almost P11 billion of which comes from fees paid by students.
Next year, DBM projects that SUCs will spend a total of P62.7 billion, of which P16.7 billion is expected to be financed by internal income.
“Students are the real victims in the continued underfunding of the government for our SUCs. Due to insufficient funds, state schools intensify the collection of tuition and various fees,” Ridon said.
DBM slashed original budget requests
“It’s deplorable for Dr. Licuanan to hype nominal increases in the total budget for SUCs without stating the fact that DBM and CHED actually slashed their original proposals,” Ridon also noted.
UP, for example, originally requested for P24.66 billion, of which DBM only approved less than half or P10.89 billion.
MSU-Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography, which will incur the heftiest cut in MOOE, actually requested for P351.7 million, but DBM only approved P345.8 million.
In the previous year, the total request of SUCs amounted to P122.7 billion, yet the General Appropriations Act only provided P42.2 billion, or about a third of the original request.
“The Aquino administration has continually emphasized that it is responding to the needs of the education sector, yet these figures clearly show that it is not.
“Dr. Licuanan, the devil is in the details – before you dispute the cuts in the budget of SUCs by emphasizing nominal increases, you should first look at the other important details, including how the Aquino administration has failed to provide for the whole budget request of SUCs annually, and how the government’s continued underfunding of SUCs push them to collect fees from students more aggressively,” Ridon said.
“We call on Dr. Licuanan to stop serving as a mouthpiece and spin doctor of the Aquino government, and instead join us in calling for increased public spending for higher education,” the legislator concluded.