Make school subsidy work, Angara urges

Senator  Juan Edgardo  Angara has called on the government to ensure that poor students will benefit from the subsidy that will cover not only tuition but also other school expenses as mandated by the Free College law.

The  law  also has an additional financial assistance for the poor students to cover their expenses for the books, fare, dorm and others,” said Angara, author of both the Free College law and the UniFAST law.

Angara has lauded the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education Board for finally coming up with the implementing rules and regulations for Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.

RA 10931, with an initial funding of P40 billion, covers the tuition, miscellaneous and other school fees of students enrolled in 112 state universities and colleges, 78 local universities and colleges, and all technical-vocation education and training programs registered under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

The law requires SUCs, LUCs and TVET institutions to formulate and implement affirmative action programs to enhance access of disadvantaged students, such as lumads, Muslims, and other indigenous peoples; persons with disabilities; students from public schools; and students from depressed areas.

Angara stressed the provision that creates a Tertiary Education Subsidy which will cover the allowance for books, supplies, transportation, room and board, personal computer or laptop, and other education-related personal expenses of poor students.

The subsidy will also provide financial support for the tuition and other fees of poor students enrolled in private colleges and universities.

Students included in the Listahanan will be prioritized as eligible beneficiaries of the subsidy, which shall be managed by the UniFAST Board. Macon Ramos Araneta

Angara has filed bills granting 20% student fare discount, as well as five-percent student discount on food, medicine, books and school supplies, to underprivileged students in all levels.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) said it is set to present the implementing rules of RA 10931 on March 26 as the IRR is still being signed by appropriate agencies.

As this developed, Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on Sunday urged college and university administrators to consider lowering their entrance examination fees, saying parents of college-eligible students had approached him and complained about the “prohibitive” rates currently being charged by the major universities in the country. 

“It is understandable for these kids to want to have options when it comes to college, and naturally their parents want to give them the opportunities. But if applying at one school requires a 500-peso fee, then applying to four, five schools can be quite expensive,” explained Pimentel.

Pimentel said that even large state universities like the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) charge rates similar to private schools—but have thousands more applicants.

According to Pimentel, who took up law in UP, “around 80,000 students  seek enrolment at  UP each year, while roughly 60,000 take the PUP college entrance exam annually.”

“Even assuming these schools only charge half of the applicants the full rate, this means that, conservatively, UP and PUP earn something like 20 million pesos and 15 million pesos, respectively, on entrance fees each year. Does it really cost that much to administer these exams?”

The senator from Mindanao said that Philippine educators should work together with the Department of Education (DepEd) to come up with a standardized test for K-12 graduates acceptable to all tertiary education institutions—a single test that will eliminate the need for schools to administer their own entrance exams.

“At present all students at the grade 6, 10, and 12 levels are given the National Achievement Test. If this is considered insufficient to provide Philippine college admission offices with a means by which to assess applicants, then I encourage our educators to work together to come up with something akin to the US’ SAT and ACT so that parents need not spend for so many entrance exams,” said Pimentel.

The SAT and ACT are standardized tests given to junior and senior high school students in the United States. Either of the test, together with a student’s grades and other requirements—e.g., personal essays and teachers’ recommendations—are used by most American universities and colleges to screen applicants.

Topics: Senator Juan Edgardo Angara , Free College Law

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