By Alexandria Dennise San Juan
In a bid to expand access to quality higher education, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has provided additional financial assistance to students belonging to indigenous peoples (IPs) in the province of Nueva Vizcaya.
During his recent visit to Nueva Vizcaya for a dialogue with students, faculty, and staff of higher education institutions (HEIs) in the Cagayan Valley, CHED Chairman Prospero De Vera III awarded the additional “Tulong Dunong” benefits to a total of 150 members of IPs identified by village elders and communities in the region.
The Tulong Dunong program of the commission grants a P15,000 per year stipend to qualified students who are currently enrolled in universities and colleges and whose family income is below P300,000 per year.
The stipend is given in addition to Free Higher Education (FHE) in state universities and colleges (SUCs), and will be used by students for other school needs such as books, transportation expenses, and other class requirements.
“Education is a powerful tool for individual empowerment that enables IP students to improve their employability, help their families and communities, and become productive citizens as we modernize our country. This is why we are going the extra mile by helping these students complete their education,” De Vera said.
Some 58,322 students in Region 2 are enjoying FHE through public universities, including Cagayan State University, Isabela State University, Batanes State University, and Nueva Vizcaya State University.
In Nueva Vizcaya alone, 9,643 students have access to free education. In addition to FHE, there are 1,669 Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) grantees and 1,135 Tulong Dunong grantees from the province.
The additional Tulong Dunong beneficiaries awarded by De Vera are financially needy students enrolled in public and private universities but who are not included in the Listahanan 2.0 of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and therefore do not qualify for the TES.
Some of these grantees come from the following IP groups: Bugkalot, Ga’dang, Ibaloi, Ifugao, Ikalahan/Kalanguya, Iwak, and Kankanaey.
“CHED will ensure that access and equity to quality higher education will be felt even in the smallest municipalities and cities in the country. This is our mission under the Duterte administration,” the CHED chief added.