[OPINION] A National Polytechnic University?

Last September 4, a letter by the Philippine President addressed to both houses of Congress vetoed the bill seeking the declaration of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) as a “national university” – a National Polytechnic University, to be specific. 

Such declaration is no mere labeling.  The PUP administration, with the support of other sectors in the PUP community, has lobbied for it because it would mean very real support for the university as a whole.

Thus far, there are only two national universities by law: the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Mindanao State University (MSU).

In the letter, President Duterte said he has "serious reservations on the suitability" to grant PUP the "national polytechnic university" status and thereby have institutional and fiscal autonomy. "Its proposed designation as national polytechnic university needs to be reassessed in light of its current performance ranking among SUCs in the country," he wrote.

Duterte added there must also be a comparative performance of PUP's satellite campuses and extension programs as granting the school the privileged status will have a "significant fiscal impact on the government."

Fiscal impact?  Performance?  Let us take a quick-and-rough look at this – as millennials might put it – fiscal thingy. 

We wonder if the President has seen the data on these institutions: UP, the leading state university, and PUP. Based in the latest data available online, the UP system had about 60,800 students in 2013. Let us round this off to 61,000 for a more conservative estimate. 

Based on latest data available online, PUP already had 71,963 students as of 2016.  Let us round this off to just 72,000.

The General Appropriations Act of 2019 gave a budget of P17,005,362,000.00 for UP.  That is P17 billion.  However, P3,233,080,000 of this goes to “Hospital Services” or the budget of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH). That still leaves 13,772,282,000 or P13.7 billion for the UP academic sector.  Meanwhile, PUP got a mere P1,499,023,000 or just about P1.5 billion for 2019. UP with P13.7 B, PUP with only P1.49 B.

What this translates to is that we are spending about P226,000 for every UP student’s education this schoolyear and just around P21,000 for every PUP scholar.

Let those figures sink in. 

As for performance, is it not that PUP graduates are topping national licensure examinations like in Architecture, Engineering, Nutrition and Dietetics, Accounting, Education, and Library Science?  How many times have the Jobstreet site surveys reported PUP graduates as the most preferred by employers?

Performance? Bang for the buck. Value for money. Performance for cost.

Oh by the way, the other national university, that other good school which deserves an increased budget, MSU, has a P3-billion budget for its no more than 50,000 students. Again, PUP has 71,000 students but only P1.49 billion this year.

So, Mr President, can we be more factual and evidence-based?  

Now, just a few days after you rejected the NPU bill, you have been reported to have said this publicly: “Kayo diyan 'yang puwede nating sarahan 'yang PUP. Wala akong pakialam sa kanila. Go ahead.”  Really?  Most students of PUP come from the lower classes.  You don’t care about the children of the poor?

Perhaps next elections you and your minions can have a change of heart?  Rappler.com

Louie C. Montemar is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.