Official COCOPEA Position Paper on Proposed Free Tuition in SUCs (SBN 177)


COORDINATING COUNCIL OF PRIVATE EDUCATIONAL ASSOCIATIONS (COCOPEA),                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Petitioner,





The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels, and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all.[1]

 The State shall:

 1.  Establish, maintain, and support a complete, adequate, and integrated system of education relevant to the needs of the people and society.

 2.  Establish and maintain a system of scholarship grants, student loan programs, subsidies, and other incentives which shall be available to deserving students in both public and private schools, especially to the under-privileged.[2]

 The State recognizes the complementary roles of public and private institutions in the educational system and shall exercise reasonable supervision and regulation of all educational institutions.[3]

 The State shall assign the highest budgetary priority to education and ensure that teaching will attract and retain its rightful share of the best available talents through adequate remuneration and other means of job satisfaction and fulfillment.[4]



When the constitution referred to the right of citizens to quality and accessible education; when it referred to its avowed mandate to provide a system of a complete, adequate, and integrated system of education, and when it committed to assigning the highest budgetary priority to educationit did not refer only to education delivered through the public educational institutions.

On the other hand, when the constitution referred to scholarships, grants, loans, subsidies, and other incentives to students, it expressly mandates that the same shall be made available to deserving students in both public and private educational institutions.

Thus, the constitution expressly declares the State’s recognition of the complementary roles of public and private institutions in the entire educational system.

The main thrust of this Position Paper is to present and explore other modes of operationalizing the constitutional mandates on education particularly in providing quality and accessible education to as many deserving higher education students as possible thereby optimizing the utilization of limited government resources.


On the Declaration of Policy of SBN 177.

Sec. 2 of SBN 177 provides:

SEC. 2. Declaration of Policy. – It is hereby declared that accessible and quality education is an alienable right of the Filipino. Therefore, the State shall renew its constitutionally mandated duty to make education its top budgetary priority by providing free higher education for all students in state universities and colleges.

The first part of the policy statement appears to be a restatement of Section 1, Art. XIV, of the 1987 Constitution. However, it must be emphasized that the guarantee of the constitution is to provide quality education at all levels, including higher education, and ensure that such quality education is made accessible to all.

While the constitution mandates the establishment of free public education in the elementary and high school levels, there is no such mandate which pertains to free higher education. Indeed, the constitution recognizes the State’s financial limitations in providing a free public education in the university or college level.

SBN 177’s commitment to renew the constitutional mandate to assign to education the highest budgetary priority is noble. However, such use of budgetary allocation on education ought to be in a manner that is more efficient and optimized by reaching out to more qualified and deserving students rather than a one-size-fits-all financial subsidy to students in SUCs.


Limiting the subsidy to students in SUCs will entail more cost to the government.

It is acknowledged that with the limited government resources, it would not be possible to provide a free college education to all students in both public and private higher education institutions. On a narrow view, providing a free college education for students in the SUCs would appear to be more affordable to the government given that the current enrolment in the SUCs accounts to around 40% only of the total number of higher education students as 60% are in the PHEIs.

However, a close scrutiny of the circumstances would readily reveal that a subsidy granting free college education in the SUCs would result to a massive migration of students currently enrolled in the private HEIs to the State Colleges and Universities. In such eventuality, the government will have to allocate more budget and resources to accommodate the current population of SUC students including the significant number of transferees from the PHEIs to cover tuition, academic personnel, and physical infrastructures necessary. In the long term, a free higher education in the SUCs would not be sustainable and affordable to the government.


PHEIs adversely affected by the implementation of the K to 12 Program cannot afford another major adverse financial impact.

The implementation of K to 12 Program under R.A. 10533 is currently in the transition period which will end in SY 2020-2021. During the five-year transition period, there will be eight (8) enrollment years lost in college.

In 2011, the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA), through the initiatives of the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU), has commissioned a study[5] on the financial impact of the additional two years in high school starting in SY 2016-2017 to the existing private basic education and higher education institutions. The study shows that the net present value losses to the private education sector are approximated at Php 158 billion. Given that private education is estimated as a Php 150 billion sector annually, these losses are equivalent to completely closing down all private schools, colleges, and universities for one whole year.

In fact, it is this negative financial impact to PHEIs that was made the basis of the following significant mitigating measures and policies from the government, to wit:

1. Recognizing that there will be SUCs that will be unutilized during the K to 12 transition, Section 30.2 of the IRR of RA 10533 mandates the CHED and DBM to review the financing policy framework for State Universities and Colleges with the end in view of optimizing the use of government resources of education; and

2. The Senior High School Voucher System was adopted where the services of the private education institutions are engaged by DepEd in the delivery of the Senior High School Program by giving all qualified SHS Voucher recipients from both public and private schools, the freedom to choose where they wish to enroll in SHS, including the private higher educational.

Given the current scenario, the proposed free tuition subsidy for students in the SUCs would exacerbate the already challenging, if not terminal, state of private higher education institutions reeling from the adverse financial impact of the K to 12 transition due to the lack of college students which extends to eight (8) enrolment years from SY 2016-2017 until SY 2020-2021; displacement of faculty; and migration of faculty to DepEd schools.

The proposed free tuition subsidy to students in SUCs would likely result to more migration of faculty and students from the PHEIs to the SUCs.

And ultimately, private higher education will be in a danger of extinction and would have dire consequences to the government and the entire education sector. It is uncontroverted that private higher education complements the public higher education system where approximately 60% of the total higher education students are enrolled.

Thus, a free tuition subsidy to students in SUCs is inconsistent with the following education principles from various laws including the Constitution, no less:

  1. “The State recognizes the complementary roles of public and private institutions in the educational system and shall exercise reasonable supervision and regulation of all educational institutions.” (Section 4 (1), Article XIV, 1987 Philippine Constitution)
  1. “The State recognizes the indispensable role of the private sector, encourages private enterprise, and provides incentives to needed investments.” (Section 20, Article II, 1987 Philippine Constitution)
  1. “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the State that the national government shall contribute to the financial support of educational programs pursuant to goals of education as declared in the Constitution. Towards this end, the government shall: Encourage and stimulate private support to education through, inter alia, fiscal and other assistance measures.” (Section 33 (2), Chapter 5, Batas Pambansa Blg. 232, or the Education Act of 1982)


Subsidy must be for the qualified and deserving students.

As opposed to a full free tuition subsidy to all students across the board, it appears that it would be more efficient to invest on poor and excellent students and expanding the subsidy to cover not only tuition but also the full cost of living allowance, books, and other incidental expense of students. This is calculated to improve the level of educational outcomes of higher education and increase the social relevance of its developmental functions.


 Subsidy must be made available to all students in both public and private higher educational institutions.

A subsidy that is available to students in both public and private educational institutions would be more equitable and consistent with the complementarity between public and private educational institutions. The subsidy to students may well be in the form of vouchers where they are given the power of choice where to enroll. This mode of subsidy to students has long been proven to be effective with the enactment of RA 6728 as amended RA 8545 otherwise known as the E-GASTPE Law, and the recent implementation of the Senior High School Voucher System under RA 10533 or the K to 12 Act.

The power to determine the qualified and deserving voucher recipients, the accreditation of participating higher education institutions, and the applicable voucher values may be delegated by the law to administrative bodies.

The power to make, alter or repeal laws is essentially lodged in our Legislature.  This is by virtue of the principle of separation of powers which ordains that each of the three branches of government, i.e., Legislative, Executive and Judiciary, has exclusive cognizance of and is supreme in matters falling within its own constitutionally allocated sphere.  However, in the face of the increasing complexity of modern life, delegation of legislative power to various specialized administrative agencies is allowed as an exception to this principle. Given the volume and variety of interactions in today’s society particularly on education, it is doubtful if the legislature can promulgate laws that will deal adequately with and respond promptly to the minutiae of everyday life.  Hence, the need to delegate to administrative bodies – the principal agencies tasked to execute laws in their highly specialized fields – the authority to promulgate rules and regulations to implement a given statute and effectuate its policies.

It is in this light that we recommend that the UNIFAST Board under RA 10687 or the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Act, be delegated as the lead government agency charged with the over-all administrative function of managing the program of free higher education subsidy in the form of vouchers. The composition of the UNIFAST Board is as follows:

  1. The CHED Chairperson as ex officio Chairperson;
  2. The Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) as ex officio Co-Chairperson;
  3. The TESDA Director-General as ex officio Co-Chairperson;
  4. The Secretary of the Department of Education (DepED) as ex officio member;
  5. A representative from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) as ex officio member;
  6. A representative from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) as ex officio member; and
  7. A representative from the National Youth Commission (NYC) as ex officio


It is further submitted that the UNIFAST Board, in consultation with multi-sectoral representatives which includes the private education and industry sectors, be specifically tasked to:

  1. Identify the priority higher educational programs that will be covered by this Act;
  2. Provide the guidelines in the selection and accreditation of participating higher education institutions both public and private;
  3. Provide the guidelines or criteria for students to qualify for free higher education vouchers;
  4. Administer the Free Higher Education Voucher System; and
  5. To manage the Free Higher Education Fund.

Finally, that the social scientists and economists at the Philippine Institute for Developmental Studies, the COCOPEA, NEDA and other groups or agencies, be tasked to determine the appropriate higher education voucher value in consideration of the normative cost per student in an average quality higher education program.

WHEREFORE, premises considered it is most respectfully prayed that the foregoing Position Paper be admitted and noted for the best possible disposition of SB No. 177.


Respectfully Submitted.

26 October 2016.

Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA)



Estrada & Aquino Law

1702 Prestige Tower, F. Ortigas Jr. Road,

Ortigas Centre, Pasig City 1600


With our conformity:




Chairperson, COCOPEA President
President, Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines



Phil. Assoc. of Private Schools, Colleges and Universities




President, Phil. Assoc. of Colleges and Universities



President, Assoc. of Christian Schools, Colleges and Universities (ACSCU)
President, Tech-Voc Schools Association

of the Philippines







[1] Sec. 1, Art. XIV, 1987 Philippine Constitution.

[2] Sec. 2 (1) and (3) supra.

[3] Sec. 4, (1) supra.

[4] Section 5 (5), supra.

[5] Don Brodeth, CFA, Taft Consulting Group, “The Effect of K to 12 on Cohort and Financial Flows, 2011”.


About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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