By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) said Filipino youth who are struggling to finish tertiary education will have “one less problem” this year with the implementation of the Free Higher Education law.
CHED Officer-in-Charge Prospero De Vera III in an interview with the Manila Bulletin said that heretofore paying tuition – along with miscellaneous fees – is a major hurdle that students from poor families who wish to complete higher education have to overcome.
However, with the Republic Act (RA) 10931, or the “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (UAQTEA) in place, CHED believes that there should be one less reason for them not to finish tertiary education.
The RA 10931 has four components: 1) Free Higher Education wherein the government will provide free tuition, miscellaneous and other similar or related fees to students admitted in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) and CHED-recognized Local Universities and Colleges (LUCs); 2) Free Technical-Vocational Education and Training (TVET) for those enrolled in state-run Technical Vocational Institutions (TVIs); 3) Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) or grants-in-aid; and 4) national Student Loan Program (SLP).
Anticipating those who have recently completed the Senior High School (SHS) program under the Department of Education (DepEd), De Vera said around 1.4 million Filipino students are expected benefit from the implementation of the Free Higher Education this year.
“We already have a one year practice with the free tuition,” De Vera said as he expressed confidence that the SUCs will have no difficulty in complying with the law in terms of dealing with documentary and reportorial systems. The one that will be more challenging, he said, would be the 78 LUCs that have been evaluated by CHED “because they will be starting from scratch.”
For the TVET, De Vera said that CHED has already downloaded to Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) a total of P7 billion after memorandum of agreement signing. “So it’s now up to TESDA to use the money for its TVET programs…we don’t anticipate significant problems with that,” he added.
De Vera noted that TES “will be very challenging” since there will be bigger coverage which requires a different program design. “There is already system in place, so we’re not starting from scratch – that’s the good news,” he said. “The not-so-good news, in a sense, is because it got bigger and the design is different, we have to change from one system to another,” he explained. The TES will be covering about 300, 000 beneficiaries.
The final component of the law, De Vera said, is the SLP with P1 billion for this year. “We’re going to use the existing loan programs of public and private universities that are already working and find a legal way of moving public funds for this program,” he ended.