, JANUARY 2, 2007 (STAR) President Arroyo yesterday urged state universities and colleges (SUCs) to become fiscally independent and to implement reforms to make this happen.

In a meeting with education stakeholders during her Christmas vacation in Baguio City, the President said SUCs should become less dependent on the National Government for funding since it has a lot of sources for its financial requirements.

For one, the President pointed out that many of the SUCs have land grants, which she said could generate revenue for the schools.

“I encourage you to earn income from them (land grants),” the President said.

Mrs. Arroyo cited the case of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City as a model. She said UP has come up with a techno park in response to her advice on how to become fiscally independent.

Another way she suggested was for SUCs to start charging full tuition fees for non-mandated courses such as nursing.

The President noted that the SUCs were now “giving unfair competition” to private schools on non-mandated courses because of the tuition fee subsidies state-run institutions offer.

Mrs. Arroyo said she understood the decision of some SUCs to provide non-mandated courses such as nursing because of the huge demand for the course, particularly overseas.

But Mrs. Arroyo pointed out that SUCs are over-subsidized already so for non-mandated courses, they should start charging the same fees as private schools.

Angeles University Foundation chairman Dr. Emmanuel Angeles, a member of the presidential task force for education from the private sector, recommended that SUCs offering non-mandated courses be subjected to the same requirements and standards of accreditation as private institutions.

During the meeting, it was also proposed that local government units refrain from putting up their own universities and colleges if there are already existing SUCs in their respective areas.

However, the President pointed out that local governments are now autonomous and that their congressional representatives could always push for new local colleges and universities.

“You (SUCs) want to be academically independent. Academic independence comes with fiscal independence,” the President said.

The President also ordered the Department of Education to come up with a “clarificatory issuance” regarding Korean and other foreign schools in the country to address the “confusion as to which government agency is regulating them.”

The Baguio meeting, where she met with education leaders from both private and public sectors, lasted close to two hours.

Mrs. Arroyo has been conducting education stakeholders’ meetings since a few weeks back, which she said, is part of her commitment to prioritize improving the country’s education system.

It was noted that the results of the meeting could help formulate a medium-term plan for Philippine education. – Marvin Sy

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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