Free college tuition a laudable program

>> Tuesday, August 15, 2017


The law providing free tuition for students in state universities and colleges (SUCs) is expected to be implemented in June next year as agencies may finish the implementing rules in a few days, the top official of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) said Wednesday 
The CHED, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) as well as the budget and science departments have started crafting the implementing rules for the free tuition.
The implementing rules and regulations are targeted to be finished the soonest time so it can be implemented by June 2018, according to CHED Commissioner Prospero de Vera.
“Hopefully, we can finish it within the week so that the commission can go over it, the other agencies can go over it and sign it within 15 days,” De Vera told a Malacanang press conference. 
Duterte signed into law the free college education bill on Aug. 3 despite opposition from his economic managers, who said the government does not have funds to implement it.  De Vera said about P20 billion is needed to implement the law next year. 
“Based on estimates, at least P16.8 billion is needed for the first year of implementation of the law for the 112 SUCs and the 16 local government-created universities (LUCs), which have been evaluated by CHED. The amount excludes around P3 billion to P4 billion for technical and vocational education under TESDA,” he said. 
De Vera said among the possible funding sources are scholarship and financial assistance from the budget of several agencies and money allotted for scholarship programs.
“Together with the Senate and House of Representatives, we will look for other funding sources from the 2018 National Expenditure Program,” he said.
De Vera said the implementing rules would include provisions on tightening admission and retention policies to prevent the massive transfer of students from private to public institutions. 
He said the funding assistance would only be given to students who enrol in a full load and finish their course on time. 
“We will also exclude students who are taking their second degree, for example, and make sure that the enrolment in SUCs will be controlled,” De Vera said.  
“We will tell the SUCs and LUCs to make sure that they do not adapt an open admission,” he added. 
Asked to react to calls to ensure that the free college tuition would only benefit poor students, De Vera said the law does not impose an income requirement on admission. 
“The law provides for all qualified students in good standing per admission and retention policy. So it will cover every one. For those who are poorer, that is where the additional subsidy comes in,” he said. De Vera said the government has an existing program providing financial assistance to about 40,000 students. 

“What the law will do is expand that coverage to get more poor students because additional funding will be made available,” he said. De Vera said of the 111 local government-created universities, only 16 have been certified by CHED as eligible for subsidies. The action of President Duterte to give free tuition particularly for marginalized students, as against the advice of his economic managers is laudable. 


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