Saturday, March 20, 2010

Privatization 2: State Universities and Colleges (SUCs)

Universities are supposed to be among the major well-springs of new knowledge in society, innovative ideas that were not thought of or tested before. And among such ideas that universities should explore is financial independence and autonomy from politics.

Private colleges and universities are generally successful in this aspect. But most state universities and colleges (SUCs), because of their nature as political creation, remain dependent on politics and politicians for decades, some even for more than a century, as in the case of the University of the Philippines (UP).

Currently there are 102 SUCs in the country. A number of these have multiple campuses or branches in other parts of the country or other parts of the region or province. UP for instance has 7 constituent units in 9 campuses from Luzon to Mindanao. Cagayan State University has 8 campuses in Cagayan province alone.

SUCs on average are dependent up to two-third of their annual revenues from NG subsidy. For MSU and DMMMSU however, dependence on state subsidy is more than 80 percent and they collect less than 20 percent from tuition fees and other services by the university. And aside from direct subsidy, SUCs also receive additional funding from the annual budget to implement the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA).

Some rich cities also have their own city universities, like the University of Makati (UMak) and the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM or City Univ. of Manila). So government spending on tertiary education is substantial. This creates some form of “addition” to taxpayers’ money by many SUCs and city universities’ administrators and officials.

It is important that the production of new knowledge be detached from politics. Politics cultivates a very partisan culture and the political biases of politicians in power somehow get into the university system’s administration like the appointment of key university officials, senior faculty members, and possibly in the content and curriculum of subjects and courses taught in the government universities.

It is also the belief of this writer that education is mainly a parental responsibility, not government responsibility. Government can come in to provide subsidized or free education up to elementary or secondary education to the poor. Education, like food and clothing, should be customized to the specific needs and resources of students and their parents or guardians. This is possible only if there is a wide range of diversity in the focus, specialization and quality of different schools and universities. Whereas it is the nature of government to provide a “standardized and homogenized” system of services like education. Homogeneity hates diversity and this often leads to mediocrity in the quality of services delivered.

It also gives additional pride and a sense of achievement to parents and guardians if they can proudly declare that it is them and their hard work, not the taxes that are coercively collected, that sent their kids to university education.

There are two important implications for this kind of philosophy or political belief. One, there should be no government tertiary institutions. Meaning all SUCs and city universities should be privatized. The national and local governments can help the poor by providing scholarships to intelligent but poor students, the latter will choose among the competing private universities. And two, there should be significant income tax cut, allow the parents and guardians to keep more of their monthly or yearly income so they can plan more about their kids’ education, healthcare, nutrition and related concerns.

This is another one of the “politically-incorrect” advocacies of this writer. An elaboration of this point will be made in future articles in this column.

(Originally posted with a table of the budget and total revenues of the 16 biggest SUCs, 2010, in

* See also Privatization 1: Philippine Military Academy (PMA), January 02, 2010

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