Free col­lege ed­u­ca­tion

Tempo - - Editorial - Johnny Dayang

TIME was when earn­ing a univer­sity de­gree was only a wild wish for chil­dren of im­pov­er­ished fam­i­lies in rus­tic bar­rios. It was not even a se­ri­ous dream to aspire for since it was lit­er­ally be­yond their reach.

Today, col­lege ed­u­ca­tion has be­come read­ily ac­ces­si­ble for even the poor­est kids, with the Univer­sal Ac­cess to Qual­ity Ter­tiary Ed­u­ca­tion Act of 2017 crafted pri­mar­ily by vi­sion­ary leader Al­bay Rep. Joey Sal­ceda.

Pres­i­dent Duterte signed the law, RA 10931 last month amidst doubts on the govern­ment’s ca­pa­bil­ity to fund its huge costs since the mea­sure did not iden­tify spe­cific fund sources for it. Hap­pily the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee chaired by Davao City Rep. Karlo No­grales and Sal­ceda as se­nior vice chair, suc­cess­fully re­aligned some ₱41 bil­lion in the 2018 bud­get to fund its im­ple­men­ta­tion start­ing next year.

Sal­ceda pi­o­neered the free col­lege tu­ition scheme un­der his Univer­sal Ac­cess to Col­lege Ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram in Al­bay where he was pro­vin­cial gover­nor for nine years un­til 2016. The pro­gram had helped 88,888 stu­dents in com­plet­ing their stud­ies and served as the “in­clu­sive tool and key to Al­bay’s poverty re­duc­tion from 41% in 2007 to 17.1% in 2015.”

Based on lessons learned from his Al­bay pro­gram, he filed HB 2771 in Congress last year “to solve the con­tin­u­ing para­dox that while col­lege ed­u­ca­tion helps us to es­cape poverty, Filipinos have to be rich to af­ford one.” His bill was merged with re­lated bills by partylist Reps. An­to­nio Tinio (ACT) and Sarah Jane Elago (KABATAAN). The House-ap­proved mea­sure sub­se­quently be­came RA 10931.

The salient com­po­nents of RA 10931 in­clude: Free Higher Ed­u­ca­tion in State Uni­ver­si­ties and Col­leges (SUCs) and Lo­cal Uni­ver­si­ties and Col­leges (LUCs); Free Tech­ni­cal-Vo­ca­tional Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing in Post-Sec­ondary Tech­ni­cal-Vo­ca­tional In­sti­tu­tions; Ter­tiary Ed­u­ca­tion Sub­sidy (TES) for Filipino Stu­dents, and; Stu­dent Loan Pro­gram (SLP) for Ter­tiary Ed­u­ca­tion.

“Free SUCS is real. No tu­ition and mis­cel­la­neous ex­penses. Ad­mis­sion is the only re­quire­ment,” “No tu­ition in com­mu­nity col­leges is real,” “Free techvoc in TESDA/ LGU-run TVET is real,” Sal­ceda posted suc­ces­sively in his so­cial me­dia ac­count.

Many stu­dents in com­mu­nity col­leges, how­ever, will have to wait awhile since only 16 of the ex­ist­ing 111 LUCs have passed CHED ac­cred­i­ta­tion.

RA 10931 gives pri­or­ity to poor but aca­dem­i­cally able stu­dents and pro­vides some ₱1.3 bil­lion in stu­dent loans for those in the low­est 30% who may need ad­di­tional fi­nan­cial re­sources in pur­su­ing their col­lege stud­ies.

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