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Habito’s Top 4 reasons why free tuition fee is not really a good thing

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Former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Cielito Habito doesn’t want to be a killjoy to the millions of Filipinos cheering President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to ignore the plea of his economic managers to veto the free tuition fee bill.

But Habito, just like his economist fellows, is not about to just stay silent on what he believes is a flawed policy by Duterte who decided to go with what was popular at the moment but could have deadly consequences on the budget in the future.

In his Philippine Daily Inquirer column, Habito lists down four reasons why a pro-poor policy on the outside would actually work against those the government was trying to help.

1) Giving free tuition to all instead of picking only deserving students, would benefit both rich and poor students. “With current patterns of enrollment in our state universities and colleges, those who can actually afford to pay will actually benefit more,” said Habito.

2) Students who pay for their tuition have more motivation to finish their studies than “free riders” who could possibly have no interest in or were not suited for college education.

3) Subsidies should be given not to schools but to students who could then choose which university or college to attend. “Giving the subsidy to state schools does nothing to improve the quality of our tertiary education, and could only perpetuate mediocrity,” said Habito.

4) Tuition fee is just a fraction of the total cost involved in sending a student to college. “As PIDS notes, living expenses and study materials make up the greater part of college costs, and where the poor cannot afford these, providing just free tuition will only help the better-off students, but still keep poor ones out of college,” Habito said.

Simply put, Habito said Duterte’s economic advisers were merely cautioning their boss that “universal free tuition is not the right tool to get us there, as it is neither efficient nor effective.”

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