Despite steadily increasing allocations for the implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (Republic Act No. 10931) or the free higher education law, Senator Win Gatchalian flagged that some qualified students are being denied admission because of limited capacities of State Universities and Colleges (SUCs).
Citing his consultations with presidents of SUCs, Gatchalian, co-author and co-sponsor of the free higher education law, raised that some students who already passed admission exams end up not enrolling. This is because some SUCs do not have enough classrooms, facilities, laboratories, and teachers, among others, to accommodate the students.
“Not all of those who pass the admission exams actually go to college and it’s not their fault. Nakakapanghinayang na maraming mga deserving at qualified na mga mag-aaral ang hindi makapasok sa kolehiyo dahil lang sa kakulangan sa kapasidad ng ibang mga paaralan,” said Gatchalian during his interpellation of the Commission on Higher Education’s 2022 budget.
Gatchalian pointed out that the participation rate in higher education in the Philippines could have been higher if the barrier of capacity had been removed. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Institute of Statistics, the Philippines ranks fourth at 41% among ASEAN countries in terms of higher education participation rate, including enrollment in Technical-Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programs.
While Gatchalian acknowledged that SUCs’ capital outlay did not increase commensurately to the budget of free higher education, he emphasized the need to have a roadmap to address capacity issues. Since data is not readily available, Gatchalian asked the CHED to submit to the Senate the number of affected students because of limited SUC’s capacity.
“Student population is growing but I think it can still grow if we can address capacity issues. I would like to urge the Commission to look at this. It’s not going to be solved overnight but at least we can see a target that we can work on in the next few years,” said Gatchalian.
From P38 billion in 2020, the budget for the free higher education law increased to P44 billion in 2021. Under the 2022 proposed national budget, the law is allotted an amount of P46 billion.
Under the Free Higher Education program, 1.6 million students from 114 SUCs and 106 Local Universities and Colleges (LUCs) no longer pay tuition and miscellaneous fees. There are 436,000 students who benefit from the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES). An additional 258,000 also benefit from the Tulong Dunong program.