MORE STUDENTS from poor families can have the opportunity to pursue and earn college degrees once President Rodrigo Duterte signs into law the Universal Access to Tertiary Education Act of 2017, which provides free tuition and miscellaneous fees for students in state schools.
The Senate-House bicameral committee approved the measure recently.
It adopted most of the provisions and original title of House Bill 2771 of Rep. Joey Salceda of Albay, which was consolidated with the versions of party-list representatives Sarah Jane Elago (Kabataan) and Antonio Tinio (Teachers). The consolidated house version was eventually merged with the Senate’s.
Salceda said students may avail of the new law’s benefits starting in the second semester of the current school year, adding that the measure is patterned after the Albay model he pioneered when he was governor of his province for nine years. It gives priority to students from the poorest to middle income families.
Together with infrastructure and tourism development, Salceda said higher education helped reduce Albay’s poverty incidence to 15 percent today from 41 percent in 2007. His scholarship program resulted in about 89,000 youth earning college degrees.
Salceda said if a student from a poor family in a desolate village gets “admitted to Management Engineering at the Ateneo de Manila, there should be no economic reason stopping him from completing his course and realizing his dream for a better life. This is the gold standard of the new law, a landmark for social equality, a milestone in nation building, and a key to youth development.”
The new law allocates about P20 billion subsidy for tuition and miscellaneous fees for those college, and another P10 billion as loanable funds for students from poor families that could be used for cost of living allowances and other school expenses.
The loans will be repaid when the student-beneficiary graduates and gets employed.
The law’s benefits are also available for those desiring to study beyond their baccalaureate degrees and pursue medicine, law, masteral and doctoral studies. NEIL A. ALCOBER