House panels study bill exempting high school students from payment of entrance exam fees

Published February 23, 2021, 4:11 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Lawmakers are mulling to exempt high school students and graduates from paying fees for entrance examinations in both public and private universities and colleges.

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO - AUGUST 17: A general view shows a row of empty chairs inside a classroom as students begin classes amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the first day of the fall 2020 semester at the University of New Mexico on August 17, 2020 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the university has moved to a hybrid instruction model that includes a mixture of in-person and remote classes. According to the school, about 70 percent of classes are being taught online. Sam Wasson/Getty Images/AFP
(Sam Wasson/Getty Images/AFP)

The House committees on basic education and on higher education on Tuesday, February 23, started discussing the bill seeking the grant of free entrance examinations in state universities and colleges (SUCs) and local universties and colleges (LUCs) to graduating high school students, graduates as well as college transferees.

House Bill No. 647 also proposes free admissions test in private higher education institutions (HEIs) for underprivileged public high school belonging to the top 10 percent of their class.

Paranaque Representative Joy Myra Tambunting, author of the bill, said this would make higher education more accessible. She said that “entrance examinations are among the prohibitive costs for any student in gaining a college degree.”

During the hearing, ACT Teachers’ Partylist France Castro said the free entrance exams could be considered part of the corporate social responsibility of universities, especially those in the private sector.

Nueva Ecija Rep. Estelita Suansing, in also asking private HEIs to consider the proposal, stressed that the free admission test would only apply to “underprivileged” students.

Baguio City Rep. Mark Go, chairman of the higher education panel, also echoed the appeal, telling the private HEIs that this will be a good “investment” for their schools.

“Biro mo ang makukuha mo ‘yong top 10 of the graduating class, so you can just imagine, you will have the cream of the crop, and you will have more students to enroll in your university or college, even when you give free entrance examinations,” Go said.

Meanwhile, Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) President Tirso Ronquillo noted that entrance exam fees in SUCs were already covered under the free tertiary education law or the Republic Act No. 10931.

He also said that more students are enrolled in private HEIs.

Ronquillo said that data for academic year 2019-2020, out of the total enrollment in higher education of 3.4 million, 1.6 million or 47 percent were enrolled in SUCs and LUCs, while 1.8 million or 53 percent were in private HEIs.

“The proposed bill, therefore, would serve its better purpose with the students who will enroll in private HEIs,” he said.

Association of Christian Schools, Colleges and Universities executive director Pat Dionio, however, asked congressmen that the entrance exam fees in private HEIs be retained.

Entrance exams fees in major universities currently range from P500 to P1,000, while fees are lower in other SUCs and LUCs, Ronquillo said.

Under the HB No. 647, school authorities who would be proven to have violated the proposed law would be penalized with an imprisonment of at least six months and a fine of P750,000. The Commission on Higher Education would also be authorized to impose disciplinary sanctions on the concerned officials and employees.