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Diokno: Free tuition to cost gov't P50-B initial expenses

Initial expenses from the newly signed law granting free tuition for students enrolled in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) will likely cost the government at least PHP50 billion in its first year of implementation, Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno said.

“We have preliminary data. (It will cost us) minimum of PHP50 billion,” Diokno told journalists Thursday during the Dutertenomics forum at Fairmont Hotel in Makati City.

In the succeeding years, the annual expenses is seen to rise to PHP65 billion, he added.

He said it is an advantage for the government that the K-12 program of the government is on its transition period since only incoming college freshmen will be funded in academic year 2018-19.

Preliminary studies based the number of beneficiaries to the number of students graduating from Grade 12 of the current school year.

He did not give possible number of graduates but said that around 85 percent of the graduates are expected to be enrolled in SUCs.

He said the free tuition fee law will also cover expenses like cost of living allowance but stressed that only around 24 percent of the enrolees will be covered.

“This is only for those we assumed that they are poor or deemed poor,” he said.

Qualified students may be granted scholarships after they have passed a national examination or entrance tests, whichever will be determined, Diokno added.

Republic Act (RA) 10931, the law that paved the way for the free tuition fees in SUCs, materialized after President Rodrigo Duterte signed the measure on August 3, 2017.

Diokno said there are about PHP16 billion remaining funds for education-related expenses for 2017 but not all this amount can be tapped for free tuition fee in SUCs.

Under the proposed PHP3.767 trillion national budget for 2018, the Department of Education will have PHP613.1 billion allocation, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), PHP13.5 billion, and SUCs, PHP64.6 billion.

Joann Villanueva / PNA