Free Tertiary Education Approved

"Every Filipino has now a fighting chance to complete tertiary education."

Finally, the   17th   Congress   is   cranking   the   legislative   maze   and   putting   out   needed legislation   before   its sine   die   adjournment.     If   they   will   not   move, it   would   be   the   worst record of a legislature, post Martial Law to have only 2 legislations passed, the General Appropriations Act of 2017 and the postponement of the Barangay elections. 
The Bicameral Conference Committee approved the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education last 29 May 2017.    The measure mandates free education in State Universities and Colleges or SUCs and in Local Universities and Colleges or LUCs.    Heralded as a reform   in   the   Philippines’   education   system, the   bill   will   open   tertiary   education   to   all Filipinos regardless of means.     
Students  in  private  universities  and  colleges  can  likewise  avail  of  the  law  considering  that  “all  students  enrolled  in  SUCs,  local  universities  and  colleges  and  in  state-­run  technical-­vocational  institutions  are  exempt  from  paying  tuition  and  other  school  fees-­which  include  library  fees,  computer  fees,  laboratory  fees,  school  ID  fees,  athletic  fees,  admission  fees,  guidance  fees,  handbook  fees,  entrance  fees,  registration  fees,  medical  and  dental  fees,  and  other  similar  or  related  fees.”    To support the cost of free tertiary education, a “Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) will be established which may also cover the tuition and other school   fees   of   poor   students   enrolled   in   private   colleges   and   universities, equivalent   to the tuition and other school fees of the nearest SUC in the area.” 
There are some 1.6 million students in 114 national government-­funded SUCs and 102 LUCs   who   stand   to   benefit   from   the   law.     Critical   to   the   roll   out   of   the   measure   when signed    into    law    is   the    funding    needed    so    there    is   no    policy   implementation    gap.    Consequently, funding   must   be   provided   for   under   the   proposed   2018   budget   that President   Duterte   will   be   submitting   to   Congress   once   he   delivers   his   2nd   State   of   the Nation Address come July 2017. 
The TES will be included in the budgets of the CHED and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and will be administered by the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Board.    “The UniFAST law of 2015 mandated   system   and   created   a   Board   that   would “oversee   and   harmonize   all   student financial   assistance   programs   for   a   more   targeted, speedy   and   sustained   granting   of scholarship programs.” 
Whether   some   would   see   this   measure   as   giving   free   lunch   or   as   a   public-­private partnership model in education, one thing is made clear, every Filipino has now a fighting chance to complete tertiary education.  It likewise levels the playing field between public and private academic institutions.

About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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