MANILA In line with its 24th founding anniversary celebration, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) puts the spotlight on the landmark legislation providing free tuition in state universities and colleges (SUCs) as its implementation takes effect this coming academic year.
During the agency's anniversary celebration on Tuesday at the CHED headquarters in Quezon City, CHED Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Prospero De Vera III said Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Education Act makes the "dreams of every Filipino people for their children to finish university" possible.
Special Assistant to the President Christopher Bong Go, who graced the event as the guest of honor, said the government, especially President Rodrigo R. Duterte, has been strongly pushing for a free tuition policy to make tertiary education more accessible for Filipinos.
De Vera said it was Go who asked him to write a "confidential memo" urging President Duterte to sign the free college tuition bill into law.
De Vera said Go's request came amid the advice of Duterte's economic managers to veto the law, citing that the government could not afford to fund the tuition subsidy.
"It was Secretary Bong Go who instructed me to write a confidential memo to the President to argue that the President must sign Republic Act 10931 (Universal Access to Quality Education Act)," he said.
De Vera said Go's intervention "made history" as the recently-signed law could now fulfill the "dreams of every Filipino people for their children to finish university."
"Truly, he is not only the 'selfie king' or pambansang (national) photobomber. He is not only an action man and an all-around man. He is the man who made possible for free quality higher education to be signed by the President," he said.
Go, for his part, said the free tuition law provides Filipinos "with equal opportunities to have a career of their own thereby improving the economic status of their respective families."
"Ito ang dahilan kung bakit malaki ang suporta na ipinapakita ni presidente sa free tuition law na kahit marami ang tumutol hindi napigilan si pangulo sa paglagda nito (This is the reason why the president has a huge support for the free tuition law. Despite a lot of criticisms, this did not stop the president in signing this)," Go added.
Go noted that students would be deeply saddened if the free college tuition would not be implemented.
"Alam niyo po mahal na mahal ng ating Pangulo ang ating mga estudyante. Gusto niya kung ano pong pera ng ating gobyerno ibabalik niya sa tao (He wants whatever money the government has must return to the people)," Go said.
Starting June 2018, students enrolled in 112 SUCs and 78 local universities and colleges (LUCs) can enjoy free tuition fees as mandated in Republic Act No. 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (UAQTEA).
The government has allocated PHP40 billion for the school year 2018 to 2019 PHP16 billion for the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES), PHP7 billion for Technical-Vocational Education and Training (TVET), PHP1 billion for the Student Loan Program, and PHP16 billion for Free Higher Education.
Under the UAQTEA, enrolled college students need not pay for their tuition, miscellaneous and other similar or related fees.
The miscellaneous fees would include library, computer, laboratory, school ID, athletic, admission, development, handbook, guidance, entrance, registration, medical, dental and cultural fees.
The 24th founding anniversary coincides with the Higher Education Week from May 15 to 18 with the theme, Access to Higher Education: Equalizing Opportunities, Building a Brighter Future' held at the CHED headquarters in Quezon City.
De Vera, along with Go and other CHED officials, unveiled a major exhibit called "Higher Education Trade Fair" showcasing the latest innovations of higher education institutions (HEIs) all over the country.
Apart from the trade fair, other major exhibits include the HEI Innovation Exhibit to promote projects jointly developed and implemented by Philippine-based HEIs and their counterpart research universities in California, as well as the "International Corner" to provide college students details on various scholarships offered by the CHED's International Affairs Staff, Embassy of Canada and Centennial College.(PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency