By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — To ensure that more students can benefit from free higher education, re-electionist Senator Win Gatchalian is proposing the inclusion of State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) in the “Build, Build, Build” program of the government to build more classrooms and school facilities.
“Maraming gustong mag-aral sa college, maraming pumapasa ng entrance exam pero hindi nakakapasok ng SUCs natin, kahit sa Local Universities and Colleges, dahil sa limited capacity,” Gatchalian said.
“We need to address this issue by building more infrastructure, kaya kailangan din ng Build, Build, Build program sa ating mga SUCs para mas maraming classrooms at laboratories at matanggap natin yung mga pumasa ng entrance exam,” the lawmaker added.
It can be recalled that during the 2022 national budget deliberations, Gatchalian flagged that problems in absorptive capacity or the lack of classrooms, laboratories, and other facilities prevent SUCs from accepting some qualified students. The lawmaker pointed out that addressing problems on absorptive capacity would increase the number of students that would benefit from free higher education and increase the country’s participation rate in higher education.
Gatchalian is one of the co-authors and co-sponsors of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (Republic Act No. 10931), which is also known as the free higher education law. He pointed out that despite increases in the annual budget for free higher education, the budget of SUCs for capital outlay did not increase commensurately.
To date, around 1.6 million students from 114 SUCs and 106 LUCs nationwide no longer pay tuition and miscellaneous fees because of the Free Higher Education program. Meanwhile, an additional 436,000 students benefit from the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES).
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute of Statistics, the participation rate in higher education in the Philippines is at 41%, which includes enrollment in Technical-Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programs.