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CHED asks DBM: Spare funding for free tuition from budget cuts

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on Thursday urged the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to exclude the funding for free tuition and the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) program from its belt-tightening measure to ensure money for COVID-19 response.

During the virtual meeting of the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education on Thursday, CHED chair Prospero De Vera III said they have formally written to the DBM to exclude the allocation for the reimbursement of tuition and miscellaneous fees as well as for the TES program from the 35% reduction in the programmed allocations in the 2020 national budget.

The DBM recently issued a memorandum stating that 35% of programmed appropriations under the P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 will no longer be released in an effort to augment budgetary support for the government’s COVID-19 response efforts.

De Vera said this covers the funds that CHED will issue to state universities and colleges (SUCs) as reimbursement for the free tuition and miscellaneous fees under the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act as well as the funding for the TES program.

The TES program covers the tuition and other school fees of student-beneficiaries enrolled in private higher education institutions.

"That is what we are worried [about] because if you reduce by 35%, we will not be able to fully reimburse the tuition and miscellaneous fees of SUCs and not be able to release the TES money for 2020," De Vera said.

"This is money that goes through CHED so that they can be reimbursed to the SUCs or awarded to students as TES," he added.

De Vera added that without these funds, higher education institutions will also not be able to continue running their programs and projects or even pay for their job order and contractual staff.

"Worse, we may be forced to allow them to collect tuition so that they will have income," he added.

De Vera did not mention whether the DBM has already responded to the CHED's letter.

The DBM memorandum has also caused a rift between the agency and the House of Representatives, as lawmakers call for the exclusion of the funding infrastructure projects from the appropriations that will no longer be released.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano himself also urged the DBM to be more transparent with the items in the 2020 national budget that will be withheld pursuant to the memorandum. —LDF, GMA News