• Improved guidelines for student aid eyed

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    THE Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is working to improve the revised implementing guidelines for the student financial assistance program (StuFAPs) following the audit report of the Commission on Audit (COA) which questions its implementation of scholarship grants and student loan programs using the controversial legislators’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

    CHEd chair Patricia Licuanan said the Commission would enhance the guidelines to ensure that student beneficiaries are properly selected.

    “CHEd is currently enhancing these guidelines and will release the latest version this year,” Licuanan said in a statement issued on Thursday.

    “We are currently enhancing the guidelines for StuFAP to improve on mode of payment, delivery of services, among others,” Licuanan added.

    In its 2012 report, COA questioned how the selection, screening, awarding and determination of the amount of the grant to each student beneficiary, which are normally the functions of the CHEd, were entrusted to the office of the legislator through a memorandum of agreement (MOA).

    The COA report recommended among others that the CHEd’s Office of Student Services revisit the MOA and its guidelines for student financial assistance programs for amendment and/or clarification to determine all the excessive grants given to student beneficiaries, and to effect their refund.

    The COA pointed out several issues related to the implementation of the CHEd’s StuFAPs that were previously funded by the legislator’s PDAF, noting that CHEd did not adhere to some of the provisions of its own StuFAPs guidelines.

    “The enhanced guidelines must be seen as part of CHEd’s efforts over the years to improve the delivery of scholarships, grants-in-aid and student loans. Since 2012, it strongly supported the research-based legislation of a Unified Financial Assistance to Students of Tertiary Education [UniFASTE], the bill for which was recently approved by the House,” Licuanan said.

    “This bill seeks to unify and harmonize all existing StuFAPs in order to improve efficiency, optimize the use of scarce resources, broaden access particularly of the poor and steer grantees to priority courses that are needed by the local and national economy,” she added.

    The UniFASTE Bill, whose funding will come from the national government, will provide scholarships and grants-in-aid loans for the students.

    “CHEd informed COA in September that even prior to the Exit Conference, it had undertaken a review of its guidelines. The Conference with COA, however, impelled CHEd to finalize the enhanced guidelines, adding policy safeguards that will improve the mode of payment, timelines and simplification of procedures and submitted documents. Following CHEd processes, consultations on the enhanced guidelines are now underway prior to their formal adoption,” Licuanan said.

    CHEd, however, admitted that it has allowed legislators to decide for their own in selecting student beneficiaries using their pork barrel funds.

    “CHEd management acknowledges that indeed it may have treated PDAF beneficiaries differently allowing legislators to decide on recipients as well as amounts of grants,” Licuanan said.

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