By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto is pushing the grant of full tuition subsidies to medical students enrolled in state universities and colleges (SUCs).
Recto recently filed Senate Bill No. 1130 which seeks to amend Republic Act No. 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, and include a provision of tuition subsidy to qualified medical students in SUCs.
In filing the measure, Recto cited the perennial lack of doctors serving the country because of the “prohibitive cost of medical education” and overseas migration or the so-called “brain drain.”
“The costs in top private medical schools in the country range from P40,000 to P150,000 per semester, while a first-year medical student’s tuition fee in a state medical school costs P24,000 to P88,500 per year, excluding living expenses and other necessities,” he said in his bill.
He also noted the decreasing government funds to subsidize the tuition fee of medical students, from P250 million in 2018 for 1,700 students to P167 million for 1,932 scholars this year.
The Department of Budget and Management had also removed from its proposed 2020 National Expenditure Program the budget for medical scholars, Recto added. “This clear lack of permanence of some state-funded scholarships leaves the continuity of the education of student beneficiaries in jeopardy.”
Under SB 1130, Filipino students enrolled in Doctor of Medicine programs in SUCs, both new and continuing, shall be entitled to a full tuition subsidy based on the actual tuition fee of their respective schools.
To qualify, they shall maintain a general weighted average of at least a passing grade, carry a regular academic load, and complete the degree within the period allowed in the university, and render the SUC-approved return of service program, or RSP, for every year of full tuition subsidy received.
The beneficiaries shall enter into a return of service agreement consistent with the Universal Health Care Act, which stipulates that graduates and recipients of government scholarships programs shall serve in the public sector for at least three years after passing the physician licensure exam.
The bill states that those who fail or refuse to serve in the government institution would be required to pay twice the full cost of the tuition subsidy, including other benefits and expenses. Non-payment may result in the denial of the renewal of the license.
“This bill will provide an institutional mechanism for the continuity of the tuition subsidy to the medical program by including it in the thrust of the recently passed law, Republic Act No. 10931,” Recto said.
“This scheme will also make way for the envisioned sustained human resource deployment in the public health care system. This will ensure the steady and sustainable supply of medical doctors to fill in the present gaps as well as address the anticipated increase in demand in the coming years.”