By Mario Casayuran
The Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) and the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) must have clear and definite guidelines for an improved implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (Republic Act 10931), or the Free Tuition Law, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said Thursday.
Gatchalian, co-author and co-sponsor of the law, cited a discussion paper by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), which identified unclear and delayed guidelines as “birthing pains” in the implementation of the landmark education reform measure.
The PIDS study showed this resulted in issues on disbursement, billing, and the processing of documentary requirements, he pointed out.
A component of the law that suffered from a lack of clear guidelines is the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES), which provides additional funding for education-related costs.
These include books, transportation, board and lodging, and allowances for disability-related expenses among others. In the initial call for TES application, vague and incomplete guidelines led to a second call for submissions and changes in documentary requirements, which tend to be voluminous and redundant.
Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate basic education committee, said the delay in the release of guidelines was another major issue raised by higher education institutions (HEIs).
When the detailed guidelines for TES were released in October 2018, enrollment for the first semester has already ended in most HEIs. Students who could have been given the chance to benefit from this subsidy missed the opportunity.