THE Senate committee on education, arts and culture has vowed to pass the bill that seeks to institutionalize government subsidy for the tuition of students enrolled in state universities and colleges (SUCs) this year or early next year.
Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th, chairman of the committee, said a number of senators are pushing for the proposed free college education and the only issue that needs to be settled is the methodology.
Aquino said there are five other bills pushing for free college education in all SUCs pending in his committee.
The measures were filed by Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, Francis Pangilinan and Senate minority leader Ralph Recto.
“We’re very, very confident that we can pass this (bill) this year. What we are trying to settle is the methodology, how we implement it,” Aquino said in an interview. He added that there are suggestions that the tuition subsidy should depend on the course of students, while another proposal is that it should be based on the capability of the students to pay.
During the committee hearing last week, several groups also suggested different methods on how to implement the measure.
Some groups want to focus on courses that students will take while others believe that it should be based on the student’s capacity to pay.
Aquino noted that while some senators and other stakeholders differ on how the government should implement the free tuition measure, the important thing is that they all agree that all high school or Grade 12 graduates are entitled to enroll in college for free.
“I think that very basic agreement here is that those who really want to pursue tertiary education who have no money to pay for college tuition fee will not be a hindrance to them,” the senator said.
Aquino however admitted that there is no allotment in the 2017 budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to implement the measure if it is enacted into law next year.
He added that they have yet to determine the amount needed.
“It’s not in the submitted budget of Congress. We’re really trying to push for this measure but have yet to finalize the amount,” he said
“But it you look at the total collection of SUCs, it is about P9 billion a year but the amount could go higher or lower depending on the final version of the measure,” he explained.
Aquino added that Congress may resort to budget insertion if the measure is passed.
Aside from improving access to tertiary education, Aquino said he will also work to improve the quality of education in SUCs.
“Just because we’re working on this bill doesn’t mean that we will disregard the quality of education college students will be getting. We have to ensure quality as well as access,” he said.