Independent vice-presidential candidate Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero vowed to revolutionize the country’s higher education with free tuition in state colleges and universities (SUCs) and better financial assistance to students in private tertiary schools.
“The tuition in SUCs is not free. It is our goal to make public colleges and universities tuition-free,” Escudero said during his recent school visits in the provinces where he discussed the platform of Partido Galing at Puso headed by his presidential running mate Sen. Grace Poe.
The vice-presidential frontrunner said he and Poe are planning to infuse additional P20 billion into SUCs’ spending package to subsidize free tuition in all public tertiary schools across the country and improve their facilities.
During the Senate plenary debate on the 2016 budget of the Commission on Higher Education last November, it was revealed that P8 billion is needed to fully subsidize the tuition of 800,000 students in SUCs this year.
Escudero said they will also ensure full and effective implementation of the student financial assistance program under Republic Act No. 10687, or the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education Act (UniFAST), which was enacted in October 2015.
“Gagawin naming libre ang tuition sa lahat ng state universities and colleges at mas accessible ang ‘study now, pay later’ program ng gobyerno sa lahat ng estudyante sa private school,” Escudero said.
Escudero, former chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, said the total allocation for 114 SUCs under the 2016 national budget is P47.4 billion, which goes mostly to personnel services and maintenance and other operating expenses.
“Of that amount, P11.8 billion is for the University of the Philippines, including the Philippine General Hospital. The rest of the budget for SUCs, which is P35.6 billion, is shared by 113 schools,” Escudero said.
The seasoned lawmaker said funding access to higher education, both in public and private tertiary schools, is similar to “investing in the nation’s future.”
“Hindi lamang pag-asa ng bayan ang kabataan. Para sa akin, dapat ang kabataang Pilipino ngayon ay maaasahan na ng bayan,” Escudero said.
Escudero said the UniFAST law ensures financial aid to private school students to enable them to finish college.
Unlike the typical scholarship program, Escudero said the UniFAST covers all students, not only those with honors or with exemplary scholastic record.
CHED data would show that of the 3,044,218 that enrolled to college in school year 2011-2012, only 648,752 completed a four-year course and graduated in 2015, or a measly 21.31 percent survival from first to fourth year college.
Although there are existing student financial assistance programs for tertiary education, these programs served only 60,240 college students in 2011, or 1.97 percent of the 3,044,219 students who enrolled that year./Office of Senator Chiz Escudero