Free tuition in public colleges and universities

THE best gift the current administration may offer to the deserving college students enrolled in public colleges and universities this year is the granting of free tuition at the undergraduate level. In this year 2017 free tuition policy at state colleges and universities, financially-incapable Filipinos can give their children college education without worrying how to pay for it for it will be for free or be subsidized by the government.

The question raised from the private sectors is “how about private higher education institutions (HEIs)?” Around one-half of the students in tertiary education are enrolled in private schools taking courses of their choice not offered in the state colleges and universities (SUCs) and recognized local colleges and universities (LUCs).

In their hometowns, there are no existing SUCs and LUCs. Most of them are pressured to enroll in a nearby private HEIs. Many of them are poor or belong to the poverty level or are indigents. So at this situation, it seems that not all poor students prioritized by the government can avail of free tuition in the tertiary level.

Tuition fees and other school fees are considered the lifeblood of private schools in the Philippines. This academic year (AY) 2017-2018, around 268 private HEIs nationwide increased their tuition and other fees with an average of 6.9%.

Factors that determine the increase in tuition fees are regional inflation rate, financial standing of the institution, financial capacity of the students, calamities, track records of school and mission and vision of HEIs. In Region 6, at least 9 HEIs increased their tuition at 1.8% or around Php8.30 per unit.

Out of 17 regions nationwide, Region 6 has the lowest average rate of increase in tuition fee. The HEIs common reasons for increase are to increase the salary of teachers and improvement of physical facilities.

On the other hand, in AY 2017-2018, the government imposed free tuition for all Filipino students enrolled in undergraduate course programs at SUCs subject to prioritization directive of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and the availability of funds. In Region 6, there are forty four (44) SUCs composed of 8 main campuses, 35 external campuses and one branch covered under the free tuition program.

In the other countries like Ireland, private schools are subsidized by the government. The salaries of a certain number of teachers in private schools are paid by the State. If the school wishes to employ extra teachers, they are paid for with school fees.

In the United States, the majority of private schools are operated by religious institutions and organizations. Funding for private schools is generally provided through student tuition, endowments, scholarship/voucher funds, and donations and grants from religious organizations or private individuals. The leading schools in the United States had substantial endowments running to hundreds of millions of dollars supplemented by fundraising drives.

In Argentina, the public or state-run universities hold the largest share of the entire university system, counting over 80% of the undergraduate population. Public universities are absolutely free and also the access to books in the universities’ libraries is free.

In Brazil, there are no tuition or entrance fees required in public universities. And because of this, only the best students were admitted every year among thousands of applicants.

In Egypt, public universities’ tuition fees are totally subsidized by the government. In continental Europe, such as in Finland, all universities are public and free of charge; in France, Germany, and Italy, most higher education organizations are public and charged low tuition; in Poland, the government pays all tuition fees and other cost of students; and in Sweden, most of the universities are public and there are no tuition fees.

These findings on financing higher education in the other parts of the world are wake-up calls. I hope that the progressive moves of the government to subsidize tuition fee in public schools are starting steps towards quality higher education in the country, free of charge.

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