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Billions in funding cuts restored: SUCs to get higher budget in 2024


Cristina Chi – Philstar.com

December 27, 2023 | 3:26pm

MANILA, Philippines — State universities and colleges (SUCs) were granted a P21 billion increase in their overall budgets for 2024, according to publicly available budget documents, handing out a win to the widespread pushback against the government’s earlier plan to cut billions from state-run schools’ funding.

SUCs will get around a total of P128 billion next year, according to the 2024 General Appropriations Act (GAA), higher than the P107 billion it received in 2023 and the P100 billion originally allocated for SUCs in the proposed spending plan for 2024.

This comes after a wave of protests led by educators and their students, as well as a signature campaign involving at least 36 SUC presidents, that sought to restore P6 billion in budget cuts believed to mostly impact public universities’ capacity to improve facilities and equipment.

According to 2024 budget documents uploaded on the website of the Department of Budget and Management, Congress bumped SUCs’ budgets up by about P27 billion — 27% higher than their original allocation in the 2024 National Expenditure Program (NEP).

Philstar.com‘s computation of the 2024 budget allocations found that lawmakers restored the budget cuts for all of the 26 SUCs that had significant slashes to their funding in the 2024 NEP. 

Some losses remain 

However, at least 15 out of 26 schools received allocations lower than the funding they received in 2023, with two public universities set to get just under half of the current year’s budget.

The budget of Mariano Marcos State University in Ilocos Norte was halved from P2.5 billion to P1 billion in 2024, according to the GAA, while funding for the Eastern Visayas State University in Leyte decreased from P2.2 billion to P874 million.

The universities that received the largest increases to their budget in 2024 were Cebu Normal University (268%) and Mindanao State University (94%). 

Mindanao State University — which recently experienced a security breach on its Marawi City campus when alleged terrorist groups bombed its gymnasium — will get P12.4 billion in next year’s budget, up from P6.4 billion in 2023.

Aside from MSU and Cebu Normal University, the university benefited the most from congressional adjustments to the budget was Central Bicol State University of Agriculture, which will get P2.4 billion in 2024 — up from the P953 million it originally received from the 2024 NEP.

Meanwhile, at least P508 million has been added to the 2024 budget of the University of the Philippines System — a 2% increase from 2023.

‘Inefficient’? 

According to the petition by the 36 SUC presidents, the higher education system and the quality of student learning were still reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic’s school closures.

Their letter stated that public universities and colleges “fail to adequately cater to the needs of our students due to inadequate financial support.”

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno earlier raised concerns that the government’s free college education program was “inefficient and wasteful” in terms of resources.

But Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairperson Popoy De Vera has defended the 2017 free tuition law, saying that many of its beneficiaries have become the first college degree holders in their families.

In August, De Vera shared that the distribution of enrolment in private and public colleges and universities has changed due to the introduction of the free higher education program.

More than half of college students currently attend SUCs compared to the previous 70-30 ratio favoring private schools, De Vera said.

This is even as private universities outnumber public colleges and universities sevenfold: there are 1,729 private universities compared to 112 SUCs and 121 local colleges and universities, as of 2019 CHED data. 

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