EDCOM 2 (Second Congressional Commission on Education) Co-Chairperson Senator Sherwin Gatchalian noted that the share of the poorest scholars under the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) program has continuously declined since 2018.
“The law is very clear on prioritization. We should prioritize Listahanan and 4Ps because they’re the poorest of the poor. But over the years, the share of the poorest of the poor vis-a-vis students from places with no State and Local Universities and Colleges (SUCs and LUCs) has gone down,” said Gatchalian.
“We’re, in effect, displacing the poorest of the poor. And, most gravely, we’re not following the prioritization as provided by the law. How come this change is happening over the years?”, Gatchalian asked UniFAST Executive Director Ryan Estevez during the budget hearing of the Commission on Higher Education.
Gatchalian referred to EDCOM 2 analysis of UNIFAST submitted data showing that the share of grantees of the TES which come from “Listahanan” has dropped substantially from 71.54% in 2018, to just 30.52% in 2022.
The TES is a subsidy established for all Filipino students who enroll in undergraduate programs of SUCs, LUCs, and private HEIs. Under Republic Act 10931 or the “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education”, the program was intended to support the poorest to pursue higher education.
TES grantees under the “Listahanan” category are those that are most in-need based on the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction, or Listahanan 2.0 and ranked according to their estimated per capita household income. These grantees are among the poorest students under the program.
Meanwhile, TES grantees under the “PNSL” (Place with No SUC/LUC) are those enrolled in private higher education institutions and residing in municipalities or cities with no SUC or LUC, irrespective of need/household income. The percentage of grantees under this category steadily rose from 25.76% in 2018, to 69.26% in 2022.
“How come we are now seeing a reverse, and the share of PNSL is getting bigger?”, Gatchalian asked.
UniFAST Executive Director Estevez answered that the UniFAST board planned to divide the TES grant equally, between the poorest and the PNSL, and that students under the PNSL category are automatically granted the TES grant.
“Ang sinasabi mo ngayon, sa dami ng nag-aaply, and limited ang pondo niyo, you divided it now – Listahanan, and then ‘yung No SUCs/No LUCs (PNSL)”, EDCOM 2 Commissioner Senator Pia Cayetano added.
“The intention is very clear: unahin na muna natin ‘yung marginalized. I think that’s basic: unahin natin ‘yung mahihirap”, Gatchalian said.
CHEd Chairman Popoy de Vera suggested that a special provision be inserted into the National Expenditure Program to make the prioritization categorical.
“It’s not even a question of interpretation – the intention is very clear: to prioritize Listahanan, and then low income, and then PNSL…But if you divide the funds, that’s not prioritization, you’re making it equal for both categories, which is not the intention of the law”, Gatchalian said.