TWO senators on Sunday told the Commission on Higher Education to heed the Senate’s call to implement the free college law in the second semester of school year 2017-18 to help ease the burden of Filipino families.
Senator Bam Aquino reminded Ched that, during the bicameral conference committee for RA 10931, representatives from both Houses of Congress agreed to implement the law by the second semester of 2017-18.
Senator Win Gatchalian told Ched to ensure strict compliance with the rules and regulations on the sue of tuition and other school fees as it prepares to consider the applications of hundreds of private higher educational institutions hoping to impose higher fees.
Last Monday, the Senate unanimously adopted Aquino’s Resolution 620, which rallied the Upper Chamber to express a united front in support of the full implementation of the free college law.
Aquino also reminded Ched of its assurance during the budget deliberation for RA 10931 that the P41-billion budget for its implementation was enough to cover the tuition and other fees in state universities and colleges starting the second semester of 2017-18.
Principally sponsored by Aquino, the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act provides free tuition and miscellaneous fees to students in universities and colleges and TESDA-run vocational schools.
Under the law, students of both public and private colleges and universities may also apply for scholarship grants and loans.
The measure had been languishing in the legislative mill for years before it was passed during Aquino’s time as chairman of the Committee on Education in the 17th Congress. This was the 19th successful measure by Aquino in his four years as a senator.
Garchalian said Ched must ensure that the income raised from any tuition hikes it might approve were invested in higher salaries for teachers and non-teaching personnel, and in essential educational equipment and infrastructure.
“The tuition hikes should not be allowed if they will only line the pockets of school owners,” said Gatchalian, vice-chairman of the Senate Education Committee.
According to Ched Memorandum Order No. 3, Series of 2012, 70 percent of the income raised by increases in tuition and other fees will be allocated to the payment of salaries, wages, allowances and other benefits of teaching and non-teaching personnel, while 20 percent will be allocated for the maintenance and modernization of buildings, equipment and payment of other costs of operations. Only a maximum of 10 percent is allowed as a return on investment for stockholders in private proprietary higher educational institutions.
In particular, Aquino highlighted the disparity in salaries between teachers in the public and private sectors, noting that entry-level teachers in private schools only earned about P13,000 per month―around P6,000 less than their counterparts in the public schools. He said private higher educational institutions should first allocate any additional income to close the “unfair” salary gap.
Gatchalian also reminded CHED to observe the utmost transparency during the consultative and decision-making processes required before any tuition increase was approved.
“Students, parents, teachers and all other stakeholders must be given a genuine opportunity to participate meaningfully in this process. Otherwise, any increases will be considered oppressive and illegitimate,” Gatchalian said as he urged CHED to release the complete list of schools that had applied for tuition increases.