Malacañang has urged the Senate to adopt the House of Representative’s version of the proposed P3.7 trillion national budget for 2018 which realigned P40 billion for the implementation of the Free College Education Law.
Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella was referring to the measure signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte in August.
“Free tertiary public education is a cornerstone of the social development policy of the Duterte administration. We welcome the move of the House of Representatives allotting P40 billion next year for free college education in state universities and colleges (SUCs) and locally funded colleges,” Abella said.
“We hope that the Senate would fully support the House initiative so that more than one million students in our public universities and colleges can enjoy free tuition and miscellaneous fees starting June 2018,” he added.
The P40 billion provided under the House budget bill was mainly sourced from the Department of Education’s school building program — P30 billion.
The rest of the amount came from the scholarship programs of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) and SUCs (P6 billion), Department of Transportation (P3 billion), and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (P1 billion).
The P40 billion will cover the stipend to be given to poor students. Under the free college law, parents can apply for an education loan at low interest to enable their children to finish college.
At present, students in 112 SUCs nationwide are enjoying free tuition subsidy from the government.
The realigned budget expands the government subsidy for tertiary education by including standard miscellaneous fees, covering 111 other SUCs created by local government units, funding technical and vocational education under TESDA, providing additional subsidy to poor students, and providing a student loan fund that will be created and administered through government financial institutions.
CHEd Commissioner Prospero de Vera said in August that the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Free College Education law does not allow SUCs to adopt an open admission system, meaning they cannot accept all students without the students passing an entrance exam, and that SUCs will be required to restrict students from private universities from transferring to SUCs by not admitting transferees in the second, third and fourth year levels.
“The SUCs should have a controlled admission. They need to tighten their existing admission and retention policies so that there won’t be massive transfer of students from private universities to SUCs. Of course, we need this [policy of controlled admission]so that the SUCs won’t be tempted to take everybody in just because they will be subsidized by the government,” de Vera pointed out.
“There are other components of the law that we’re looking at, including ensuring that only students who enroll on a full load and finish their course on time will be able to access the funding assistance of government. There’s also the possibility of enrollees intending to go to private universities but will go to SUCs, but this will probably happen only for the entering freshmen batch. For the second, third and fourth year, we are discouraging wholesale transfers from private universities to state universities and colleges [under the IRR],” he added.