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The Price for Quality Higher Education

Manila Bulletin, July 6, 2008 | Go to article overview

The Price for Quality Higher Education


Were there no private schools, this responsibility would rest solely with government.

Complementary role to government

Since government runs a public school system accessible only to some 30 percent of those in higher education, private schools play a complementary role to government. The private schools run substantially on private-sector resources raised through private investments, donations, tuition, fees, and the like. Insofar as they succeed in a free market economy, they contribute to the universal output of higher education - which otherwise would have to be shouldered by government alone. Although government does not provide substantial resources for the operation of private schools, private schools account for 70 percent of the higher education output in the country.

Respect in partnership

Private schools are the government's only partner in higher education. In government's relationship to private schools, the private schools should be respected for bringing together and managing significant resources for respectable delivery of higher education. When government mandates public schools to offer high levels of delivery, it logically gives to public schools the resources necessary for that delivery (salaries, books, equipment, etc.). However, in mandating private schools to high levels of delivery (on pain of closure or withdrawal of permit to operate programs) and not providing the resources for that delivery, it must respect the manner in which the schools attain their resources, normally through tuition, fees, and donations. The collection of tuition, fees and tuition is in response to the mandate for quality education in the country today which government itself cannot fund.

The government mandates high levels of delivery, meaning higher salaries (because Bachelor's degrees are not enough, but MAs or MSs are required), better libraries (where many books are not enough, but updated books appropriate to the disciplines being taught in the colleges and universities are required), better laboratories (where state-of-the-art equipment is called for), and better facilities (often involving new classroom buildings, libraries, amphitheaters, covered courts, playing fields). To carry out this mandate, schools should be able to seek resources from their regular source of funding, tuition and fees. While schools certainly appreciate donations, few schools can plan on a regular inflow of donations.

Ambiguous aspects of "accessible"

A cap on tuition fees may make the educational institution more accessible to some poor individuals, but may deprive those able and willing to pay access to higher-quality education that can be provided by the institution. The original mandate for universal higher education rests with government, but if it cannot provide the higher education that private schools can, it should let the private schools do this, as they do. Government should then continue to provide education for those who cannot afford higher private education. Where CHED or Congress considers capping tuition fee increases with an arbitrary figure - such as 70 percent of those increases must be used for salaries, 20 percent for the improvement of facilities, and 10 percent for return-on-investment (where the school is not non-stock, non-profit) it stunts the growth of schools in quality, especially the smaller schools. Also, because such a scheme begins with an uneven base, it allows much more increase in absolute values for the biggest schools. Eight percent of Juan Pobre College's 100 pesos per unit is much smaller than eight percent of the University of San Prospero's R1,500 per unit. The fixed percentage keeps the big schools permanently ahead of the small schools.

Indeed, schools should be free to determine where increases in tuition should go - whether for a raise in salaries or improvement in facilities. If salaries in a school have already been adequately provided for but new facilities are needed, why must the school be constrained to use 70 percent of its new income for salaries, when this is much more needed to build its library or laboratories?

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The Price for Quality Higher Education
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