Angara tells CHED to absorb ‘Tulong Dunong’ scholars in TES

Published September 20, 2018, 6:45 PM

by Roel Tibay

By Hannah Torregoza

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) should find ways to ensure that the current beneficiaries of the “Tulong Dunong” scholarship program would be absorbed under the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES), which is already under way as part of the new free college education law.

Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara made the call as the Senate Finance Sub-committee, tackled the proposed budget of the CHED and of the State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) for 2019 on Thursday.

Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara

“To clarify the issue, while the ‘Tulong Dunong’ program will be cut by P3-billion, the TES will be raised by P11-billion. We are urging the CHED to come up with a guideline to ensure that current beneficiaries of ‘Tulong Dunong’ can still benefit from the increased funding for the TES,” said Angara, one of the authors of the Free College Education Law.

“Para naman walang iskolar ang mawawalan ng benepisyo, (So that no scholar would be deprived of their benefits),” he stressed.

Republic Act 10931, the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, has created the TES that aims to cover the allowance for books, supplies, transportation, room and board, and other education-related personal expenses of poor students.

For this year, the Free College Law received a total of P40-billion funding — P16 billion of which goes to TES, which will be implemented for the first time this year.

With the P16-billion allocation, CHED said around 300,000 poor students from both public and private higher education institutions (HEIs) can get up to P60,000 allowance for this academic year.

For next year, the Free College Law will get a bigger funding of P51 billion and P27 billion of the amount will go to the TES. The number of beneficiaries will also go up to 500,000 poor students.

‘Disconnect’ in programs

However, while the TES budget increased by P11 billion for next year, CHED’s Tulong Dunong program decreased from P4.19 billion this year to P1.19 billion in 2019.

CHED Commissioner Prospero De Vera said around 350,000 student beneficiaries of Tulong Dunong would be adversely affected because of this move.

De Vera explained it would be impossible for them to include all beneficiaries of the Tulong Dulong program under the TES bracket. “We cannot do it because the law requires a system of application and there are requirements to be a TES beneficiary under the law,” De Vera said.

“So, it’s not automatic that a ‘Tulong Dunong’ scholar will be adopted immediately in the TES. We cannot do it because they have to apply,” he stressed.

Under the RA 10931’s implementing rules, prioritization of TES beneficiaries will apply to:

1. Continuing grantees of the existing CHED’s Expanded Students Grants in Aid Program belonging to 4Ps families;
2. Students studying in private schools in cities and municipalities with no existing state university and college (SUC) or local university and college (LUC);
3. Students included in the Listahanan 2.0; and
4. Those not in the Listahanan 2.0 but can show proof of indigency.

“What if their name is not in the listahan of the 2.0 of the DSWD? …We cannot automatically take them out and make them part of the TES. The law simply does not allow it,” De Vera said.

‘Tulong Dunong’ benefits

Under the Tulong Dunong program, beneficiaries stand to get P12,000 worth of financial assistance per year. TES beneficiaries, on the other hand, stand to get as much as P40,000 per year (if enrolled in an SUC) to P60,000 (if enrolled in a private school).

De Vera said they will first observe how the first batch of the beneficiaries under the TES will fare before they proceed with the proposal. There are at least 300,000 slots available in the initial roll-out of the TES program.

“Maybe if we see it and it is a workable system maybe we can put budget in the 2019 NEP (national expenditure program) to create additional mechanisms to make it easier for them to fund,” he said adding that the number of slots might be increased to accommodate at least 500,000 beneficiaries.