Quezon City 5th district Rep. Alfred Vargas underscored on Sunday the urgency of passing a law that would help keep college students in school amid the hardships caused to Filipino households by the COVID-19 scourge.
“Many students have been forced to drop out of school because their parents lost their jobs, or their sources of income have been severely affected by the pandemic,” noted Vargas, author of House Bill (HB) No. 7446 or the “Sagip Kolehiyo Act.”
“With this measure we hope to help them continue to fight for their dream,” he said.
The bill aims to use the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UNIFAST) to help college-level children of workers laid off during the pandemic continue their education.
The Vargas measure proposes to set aside a P5-billion funding per semester, which according to the solon could help around 100,000 college students carry on with their studies.
Based on a survey conducted by Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) last year, around 44,000 undergraduate students may not enroll for the current academic year due to the economic uncertainty brought about by the pandemic.
The House Committee on Higher and Technical Education last week created a technical working group on HB No.7446, bringing it a step closer to approval at the committee level.
“Nagpapasalamat po tayo sa suportang ipinakita ng ating mga kasama sa Committee on Higher and Technical Education, kasama na ang ibang education stakeholders. Ito ay pagkilala nila sa pangangailangan sa panukalang batas na inihain natin upang mabigyan ng ayuda ang ating mga estudyante sa panahon ng pandemya. (I thank my colleagues at the Committee on Higher and Technical Education, as well as the education stakeholders, for the support that they have shown. This recognizes the importance of my bill particularly in helping out students during this time of the pandemic),” Vargas said.
Under the bill, college students whose parents or heads or households fall into the following categories will be eligible for a scholarship: No work, no pay workers; jeepney and tricycle drivers; employees who used to be regularly employed but have been laid off due to business closure or retrenchment; hospitalized or have died due to COVID-19; and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who could not find local employment immediately.
Each eligible college student will be entitled to a maximum assistance of P50,000 per semester that he or she is enrolled in a college, university, or TESDA-accredited institution.