Pia wants bigger budget for higher education scholars in 2020

Senator Pia S. Cayetano wants to augment the proposed 2020 budget for higher education by over P14 billion not only to continue supporting existing scholars in the tertiary level, but also to accommodate new student beneficiaries for next year.

The Senate Finance Committee Senior Vice Chair stressed that her proposed additional funding seeks to benefit more than 700,000 new and existing beneficiaries of various scholarship and financial assistance programs of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

These include Student Financial Assistance Programs like the Tulong Dunong scholarship and other scholarship grants in private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) and Student Loan Program under the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act or UAQTE (RA 10931), and the subsidy for tuition and other fees of medical students in state universities and colleges (SUCs).

"Granting free tuition to college students is a centerpiece program of the Duterte administration. It is therefore only fitting that we ensure that these programs are properly funded," said Cayetano, who was the sponsor of the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education or UniFAST Act (RA 10687).

"Our goal is to grant the request of CHED to restore funding for these programs and even augment it so we can prevent the disenfranchisement of students and assist more poor and deserving ones. We want to guarantee that in our fight for better access to education, not one student gets left behind," she added.

Cayetano said she will propose committee amendments to increase CHED's 2020 budget for the following programs:

- Increase by P3.655 billion the funding for the Student Financial Assistance Program. This will not only continue to give financial assistance to 23,867 students through the Private Education Student Financial Assistance program, but will also grant financial assistance to 175,260 new students through the Tulong Dunong program.

- Restore the P10.356 billion budget cut for beneficiaries of the UAQTE. This will benefit 568,410 TES beneficiaries as provided by the law.

- Allocate P167 million to subsidize cash grants for medical students in SUCs. The amount shall exclusively be for the grant of tuition subsidy and financial assistance to 2,183 students enrolled in eight (8) SUCs offering Doctor of Medicine Program. This year, a total of 1,699 med students benefited from the program's P167 million budget. For 2020, however, CHED received zero budget under the budget department's National Expenditure Program (NEP).

If approved, Cayetano's proposed amendments will increase CHED's budget by a total of P14.178 billion.

The senator stressed that increasing the agency's budget for scholarships is necessary to continue the momentum created by the law on universal access to quality tertiary education.

Moreover, she said it will guarantee the attainment of the government's sustainable development goals (SDGs), which includes ensuring equal access for all to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university.

"We should grab this opportunity during the budget season to make sure that the Filipino families' aspiration for their children to acquire free tertiary education will not be a 'pipe dream'," the senator said.

"The goal is to guarantee that our students, particularly the poor yet deserving ones, can continue to avail of scholarships and receive quality education that will enable them to contribute to sustainable growth," she added.

A known education advocate, Cayetano is making similar efforts across education sectors by also proposing to augment the Department of Education's 2020 budget for the improvement of basic education in the country.

Source: Senate of the Philippines