Press Release
May 25, 2015

Senate proposes unification of gov't scholarship programs

The Senate has approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to unify all government scholarship programs for tertiary education to make it more accessible to poor but deserving students.

Senator Pia Cayetano, chairperson of the Committee on Education, Arts and Culture and sponsor of Senate Bill No. 2679, said that once the proposed measure was enacted into law, all existing Student Financial Assistance Programs (StuFAPs) for tertiary education, whether nationally or locally funded, would be consolidated into one government-funded program to be overseen by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said that the measure was part of the Senate's efforts to "streamline the process of admission into our government's scholarship programs and ensure that qualified young Filipinos have access to quality education."

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the top three graduates of all public high schools in the country would be given the first priority to be the "Iskolar ng Bayan," with easy loans payable in instalment basis once the proposed measure is enacted into law.

Recto, who introduced the amendment, said bill would ensure that no college student would be deprived of the opportunity to finish his or her course for lack of funds.

Senator Sonny Angara, principal author of SB 2679, said the government had in place up to 62 Student Financial Assistance Programs across 17 agencies. Though some programs performed relatively well, he said, a majority had low coverage.

More worrisome, Angara said, was a study conducted by CHED which showed that the StuFAPs were "increasingly enjoyed by student beneficiaries from high income families.

"To date, we have no way of checking whether the education grants extended by the government had actually reached those who deserved it, much less whether such assistance helped students land decent job and earn higher salaries. Without any institutional means of tracking, we may never know for sure," Angara said.

"With such a system, we empower not just CHED, but all other government agencies, to ensure that their student financial assistance rightly goes to who needs it and where it's needed the most," he added.

Cayetano said CHED records showed that the current StuFAP system served only about 60,000 students in 2011, or two percent of the 2.7 million students, "while there were hundreds of thousands of eligible students in need of financial assistance."

In the National Capital Region, she said, only 309 students or 8.75 percent out of the 3,532 applicants of CHED's StuFAPs received full merit scholarships while 422 or 11.95 percent received half-merit scholarships and 382 or 10.82 percent received grants-in-aid.

"This bill is expected to harmonize, reform, strengthen, expand, rationalize and refocus all existing modalities of StuFAPs for tertiary education in both public and private institutions, whether nationally or locally funded," Cayetano said.

The proposed measure, she said, sought to increase the enrolment and completion rate in tertiary education, especially among the poor, by allocating and efficiently utilizing government resources under the Unified Student Financial Assistance System (UniFAST).

Cayetano said a UniFAST Board, to be headed by CHED, will be created to craft, approve and review policies and strategies for providing StuFAPs for tertiary education.

The board will also coordinate all the implementing agencies of StuFAPs and lay down guidelines to ensure efficient generation and delivery of funding for the programs as well as effective implementation of policies.

Cayetano said the board's secretariat will create and maintain a comprehensive database system on the government's scholarship programs for transparency and monitoring purposes.

"A unified, improved government-funded scholarship program shall be instituted under this bill to encourage academic excellence among academically or technically capable students and enlarge a pool of world-class Filipino researchers, artists, innovators and dealers," Cayetano said. (Pilar S. Macrohon)

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