President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to sign the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act last Thursday, August 3, over the objections of his economic managers, have put the spotlight on state universities and colleges (SUCs) which will bear the main responsibility for implementing the new law.
Under the new law, qualified students in government-run universities, colleges and technical-vocational institutions won’t have to pay tuition fees anymore. The government will also provide financial assistance to eligible students through a variety of scholarships, grant-in-aid programs and student loans.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the law will be implemented by the first semester of school year 2018-2019 as it entails changes in the proposed national budget for next year.
The prospective abolition of tuition and other fees for qualified undergraduate students, could hit hard SUCs that have high operating costs that go to salaries, maintenance and other related expenses, and recover these costs through tuition and other fees. To cope with the new law, these government-run schools will either have to pare down their operating expenses or lobby for additional subsidies from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
The tables in this infographic give us an idea of the range of some of the SUCs’ average operating costs per student. The figure, which comes from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), is derived by dividing the school’s budget for personnel salaries (PS) and maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) by the student population. It excludes capital expenditures for such things as the construction of new buildings or acquisition of equipment.
Based on CHED data, the SUCs’ average operating cost per student in the country ranges from less than Php9,000 to almost Php180,000.
At the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), the most populous state university in the country with 71,963 enrollees for the school year 2016-2017, the government spends a mere Php17,758 per student. This is far below the amount spent on students at the University of the Philippines (UP), the second most populated with 59,960 enrollees, which is a whopping Php177,849—10 times more than PUP’s average cost.
The data show that the government spends the most on UP students, the country’s premier university. It is followed by the Philippine Merchant Academy in Central Luzon and Mindanao State University-Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography in Mindanao. (Entrepreneur Philippines previously included Basilan State College as the third biggest SUC with the biggest per student cost based on CHED’s initial data. CHED corrected its estimate of the average cost per student for Basilan State College on August 9.)
Meanwhile, three out of the four state universities and colleges (SUCs) located in the Negros Island Region belong to the bottom 15 schools that spent the least per student. This includes Central Philippine State University, which spent only a mere Php8,698 per student.
This article was updated on August 9, 2017 to reflect a correction made by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on its data. It miscalculated the average cost per student at the Basilan State College, resulting in much higher figure.
Pauline Macaraeg is Entrepreneur PH's data journalist. Follow her on Twitter @paulinemacaraeg