State disregard of youth: Education budget cuts
The future of the Filipino youth is clearly not a priority of Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s reactionary government. Despite the 9.5% increase in the proposed 2024 national budget, the budget for state universities and colleges (SUC) was cut by 5.8%. From the already insufficient ₱107 billion for 2023, only around ₱100.9 billion is being allotted for 2024.
More infuriatingly, the proposed budget is not even a third (1/3) of the much needed ₱331.34 billion budget for 117 SUCs. In the Marcos regime’s proposal, SUC infrastructure (capital outlay) suffered the biggest cuts. Of the requested ₱200.4 billion, only ₱5.5 billion, or not even 3%, was allocated.
Of the 117 SUCs, 30 will suffer budget cuts. The biggest is the ₱2.9 billion in the University of the Philippines (UP) budget. Its budget in the previous years have constantly gone down—from ₱24.29 billion in 2022, to ₱24.26 in 2023 and only ₱21.29 for 2024.
The next biggest cuts are in the budgets of the Mindanao State University (₱2.3 billion), Mariano Marcos State University (₱1.5 billion), Eastern Visayas State University (₱1.3 billion), Central Bicol State University (₱1.2 billion), and West Visayas State University (₱852.9 million).
Insufficient budget for free tuition
This 2023, the free tuition program received only ₱18.74 billion for 1.74 million SUC students. According to reports, this is short by ₱4.23 billion to cover all students. In the 2024 proposed budget, the ₱21.7 billion will again fall short by ₱4.16 billion for the estimated 1.8 million students expected to avail of free tuition fee.
Due to lack of funds, teachers and facilities, SUCs accommodate only a limited number of students. Last year, 105,000 lined up but UP admitted only 15,000 students; while of the 173,000 who took the exams, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines admitted only 20,000.
Not even half of the 4.43 million college students can avail of free tuition. More are being forced to enrol in private colleges and universities due to lack of public schools. Each college student is estimated to spend an average of ₱150,000 each year.
Students are thus outraged by proposals of Benjamin Diokno, the Marcos regime’s finance secretary, to further reduce the number of student beneficiaries of free tuition on claims of being “unsustainable.” He also insists that the number of SUCs in the country be reduced.
Student groups retort that what is unsustainable is the ₱78,852.14 daily salary of Diokno compared to ₱64.74 daily state expenditure per student availing of free tuition.
All-out support for military education
While SUC funds are being cut, government funds continue to pour for the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). In previous years, its funds rose constantly, from ₱1.36 billion in 2022, to ₱1.47 billion this 2023, and further to ₱1.58 billion in 2024.
PMA cadets are excessively pampered. This year, the government spent ₱1.13 million for each of its 1,300 cadets. Meanwhile, the state spent a much lower ₱61,686 each on average for SUC students this year. In short, the funds for each PMA cadet is equivalent to that for 18 SUC students.