Temporal Solace for Poor Schoolchildren

Mar 29 2018 - Amid the somber thoughts of Lent, poor families may find temporal solace in the announcement by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) on Monday that the free college education program will start this June, and will be extended to more qualified students.

More than 200 schools are expected to stop collecting tuition and other fees this coming school year.

That is after CHEd Commissioner/officer-in-charge Prospero de Vera 3rd introduced the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act” (Republic Act 10931), or the free college education law, as well as the IRR for the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST under Republic Act 10687).

Sen. Paolo “Bam” Aquino had endorsed this program, saying that RA 10931 would ensure that Filipino students would enjoy free education in state universities and colleges, CHED-accredited local universities and colleges and TESDA-accredited technical-vocational institutions.

This would also give support to underprivileged students in private colleges and universities through a Tertiary Education Subsidy and a Student Loan Program.

For its first year of implementation, the free college education law will allocate a P40 billion subsidy as follows: P16 billion as tertiary education subsidy (TES), P7 billion for a technical-vocational education and training (TVET) program, P1 billion for the student loan program, and P16 billion for free higher education.

Under the TES portion of the program, subsidy will be granted to a greater number of poor schoolchildren seeking a college degree — with the number raised to 300,000 from the originally set 20,000 beneficiaries.

Additionally, payments to use a computer, library and laboratory, as well as miscellaneous costs such as athletic, development, registration, cultural, computer, school ID, admission, entrance, guidance and medical/dental services will also be borne by the government.

The provision also allows students to apply for “books, supplies, transportation and miscellaneous personal expenses” allowance while “poor but academically-able” students and students with “disabilities” will be provided with separate stipends.

The program will also have provisions for minorities. The law signed by President Duterte in 2017 would benefit 112 state universities and colleges (SUCs) 78 local colleges and universities (LCUs), and technical education skills and authority-registered institutions.

We agree with OIC de Vera when he said the free college education law “is the most important mandate the commission must ensure.”

During this time of reflection, it is heartening to find a piece of good news such as this. The law’s principal author in the House of Representatives, Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, said this law will usher in the “next wave social revolution in building a more egalitarian society.”

All these are intended to bring hope for hundreds of thousands of our young generation of Filipinos who dream of educating themselves out of poverty but might otherwise remain destitute without help from a government program such as this.

Worse, they may be thrust deeper into a life of misery and become prey to the evils of addictive drugs and alcohol, which the Duterte administration has made its number one enemy.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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