CHED scholars may lose assistance as DBM cuts student aid fund

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 10) —  College scholars may lose their financial assistance next year as the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) significantly cut funding to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

The 2019 budget for CHED's Student Financial Assistance Program's (STUFAP) was slashed from this year's P4.7 billion to P1.7 billion.

CHED Officer-in-Charge Prospero 'Popoy' De Vera said students enrolled in state universities and colleges (SUCs) can still have free tuition and other school fees, but will no longer receive additional stipend due to the 64 percent budget cut.

The stipend provided by the agency is allotted for everyday expenses of deserving students, including transportation and food allowance, as well as funds for academic requirements.

De Vera explained that those enrolled in private universities will also be heavily affected as they may not receive money for tuition or other school fees.

"I just told them (Congress) na we cannot keep the promise of CHED anymore kasi ang promise namin dyan, we will help fund them until they graduate," De Vera said. "Don't hold us accountable."

(Translation: I just told them (Congress) that we cannot keep CHED's promise anymore because our promise was to help fund them until they graduate.)

One program funded by STUFAP is Tulong Dunong, which gives college students in both public and private institutions financial assistance of P6,000 to P12,000 to cover tuition, school feels and other educational expenses, and cost of living allowance.

New budgeting system

CHED's capital outlay for infrastructure was also drastically cut from P48 million in 2018 to just P6.9 million next year.

De Vera added that 35 of the country's state universities did not get infrastructure funding. This means they will have no budget for new buildings and classrooms.

House Committee on Appropriations Chairman Karlo Nograles attributed the budget cuts to DBM's new cash-based system which will be implemented next year.

The administration plans to shift from a multi-year, obligation-based budget system to a cash-based one which will only allow resources for projects that can be initiated and completed within the year.

READ: New system may delay 2019 budget approval — House appropriations chief

The shift, according to DBM, will ensure that agencies spend their funds within the year and avoid underspending.

Lawmakers on Thursday unanimously contested the proposed system.  They plan to amend a provision in the 2019 National Expenditure Program to restore obligation-based budgeting.

CNN Philippines is trying to reach the DBM but has yet to receive a response.

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.