March 14, 2017
Three decades after free high school law:
Senator Sonny Angara lauded the Senate's passage of the bill that grants free college tuition fee for all students enrolled in state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the country.
"Edukasyon para sa lahat--wala namang tututol dito dahil isa ito sa pinakamahalagang maiaalay natin sa bayan. Isa itong pamana na walang katumbas na halaga. Kaya lubos nating pinupuri ang mga kasamahan natin sa Senado sa pag-prioritize sa panukalang batas na ito," said Angara, vice chairman of the education committee and one of the authors of Senate Bill 1304.
"Halos tatlong dekada na mula nang maisabatas ang free high school kaya't napapanahon na at dapat lang naman talaga na gawin nang libre ang tuition sa kolehiyo," added the lawmaker whose father, former Senator Ed Angara, is the author of the Free High School Act of 1988.
Angara also welcomed the amendment by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto that underscores the grant of tuition subsidy and financial assistance to students even in private higher education institutions (HEIs), pursuant to the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Act.
Some education officials have expressed concern that with 113 SUCs and the University of the Philippines offering free tuition, students would likely transfer from private HEIs to SUCs, and some private HEIs might not survive the drop in enrolment.
Republic Act 10687 or the UniFAST Act of 2015 mandates the government to put up a system and create a body that would oversee and harmonize all student financial assistance programs for a more targeted, speedy and sustained granting of scholarship programs.
"The UniFAST law, which we principally authored, ensures that all poor and deserving students will be given the opportunity to finish college. This would allow students and their families to choose the schools they want, whether in SUCs, private HEIs or in technical-vocational schools," said Angara, who is a known advocate of educational reforms.
Currently, approximately 4.1 million students are enrolled in higher education institutions--1.9 million of which are enrolled in public schools while 2.2 million are in private schools.
Apart from tuition, Angara also stressed the need to assist poor families with the costs of dorm, fare, food, books and other miscellaneous fees.
To address this, he has filed Senate Bill 134 that aims to provide five-percent student discount on food, medicine, miscellaneous and other school fees, including books and school supplies, to underprivileged students in all levels throughout the country.
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