Educator seeks to expand socialized tuition

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INSPIRED by the University of the Philippines’ (UP) Socialized Tuition System (STS), the university’s old tuition scheme where students are bracketed according to their socio-economic status, an educator from Pampanga province said he wants to expand the program to benefit millions of students from various economic classes, especially those who are financially challenged.

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Dr. Renato Legaspi, president of Central Luzon College of Sciences and Technology–San Fernando City and Olangapo City campuses, said it is high time that the private-education sector should have its own voice in Congress, given that the government has supposedly abandoned its job in uplifting the quality of the country’s educational system and in providing equal assistance to the private schools as it does to the public schools.

“When I was studying in UP during the late 1960s, a student has to present his or her parents’ personal income tax to avail of the STS. If your parents’ annual income is below P100,000, you are free from your full load tuition,” Legaspi, who took up his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Business Administration in UP Diliman, told this reporter in an interview during the 6th National Congress of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (Cocopea) at Novotel , Cubao, Quezon City (Metro Manila) over the weekend. “So why not implement this for all?”

Legaspi, also a trustee of the Philippine Association of Private Schools, Colleges and Universities (Papscu), said he and his co-educators from Central Luzon have created the Central Luzon Alliance for Socialized Education or Concerned Leaders and Alliances for Socialized Education (Clase), a regional party-list organization accredited by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in November last year, to represent all the stakeholders in the education sector, which include not only the students and parents but teachers and schools as well, in Congress.

According to the Pampanga educator, the Clase party-list is different from other sectoral educational party-lists as it focuses on socialized education, which aims to bridge the gap between the rich and poor and to push for a strong middle class in the country.

“For example, there are about 74 million people who are now either in the poor or very poor bracket in the social economic classes (categories D and E). So these are about 74 million, so there is an increasing number of out-of-school-youth in our country today and many are stopping because they don’t have financial capability,” Legaspi, the group’s first nominee, explained.

“We are pursuing this and have a budget if given a chance to see on Congress who would like to check on possible financial assistance from the government to put up the socialized education fund other than existing scholarship programs such as the Scholar ng Bayan, the Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (Unifast) Law, the Department of Science and Technology and other line agencies, which give special grants and scholarship privileges to different sectors of our society,” he said.

If elected to Congress, Legaspi said their party-list will assist parents in providing a free Socialized Scholarship Grants System for incoming Senior High School (Grades 11 and 12) students, technical vocational (tech-voc), and higher education for their children (Grade 10 finishers) who have the intellectual capacity (with a weighted average of at least 87 percent) but financially challenged.

“We will give free tuition fee, free miscellaneous fee, free books, and free sets of uniforms, free transportation and free one meal for during schools days,” he added.

According to him, private schools, colleges and universities under this category shall be paid by the government through a voucher system.

“That’s the difference between the other existing scholarship grants from line agencies of the government and private sectors.”

For non-scholars or students with a weighted average of 86 percent below, they will be covered by the unified and expanded “Study Now, Pay Later Program” for them to pursue and complete their basic education, tech-voc, and college education, Legaspi said.

“We will put up a socialized education fund again to compliment the non-scholars. This will be expanded nationally, unlike before it was stopped,” he noted.

Under the expanded “Study Now, Pay Later Program,” a student who wants to pursue college education or take up a tech-voc course in the private schools can avail of loans from the government through a voucher system given to a school of his choice and will only pay after having been made a permanent employee in his work.

“One-year permanency will be the start of your amortization of your payment for those years that the government has spent for you. Just like in the United States, Europe, or in Canada where people can get an educational assistance and after having gone through their education then they will have to pay after being permanent,” Legaspi said.

“We’re going to adopt that system but with a guarantor [employer], with limited 10-year payment plan, and with very low 6 percent per annum interest,” he added.

In case of default, the guarantor assumes payments, Legaspi said.

To avoid corruption and being politicized, the socialized education fund will be handled and managed by a 10-man group composed of secretaries from the Department of Budget and Management, Department of Science and Technology, Commission on Higher Education, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and the Department of Education, and five representatives from the private education sector.

When asked on why the private schools should have its own representative in Congress given that they are not considered as marginalized sector, Legaspi said private schools should have a bigger share of the appropriated budget of the government.

“Many private schools are closing shop because of the emergence of the state universities and colleges, which have a big budget from the government, unlike us who are on our own,” the educator explained.

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