Universal Access to Tertiary Education Act to usher next wave social revolution – Salceda

MANILA-- The Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (RA 10931) which President Rodrigo R. Duterte has now signed into law, will usher in the next wave social revolution in building a more egalitarian society, according to Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, the law's principal author in the Lower House.

The new law is a most vital social legislation, next to the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill in terms of significance and permanence, said Salceda who also principally authored the tax reform package.

RA 10931's landmark components include: 1) Free Higher Education in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) and Local Universities and Colleges (LUCs); 2) Free Technical-Vocational Education in Post-Secondary Technical-Vocational Institutions under TESDA; 3) Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) for Filipino Students; and 4) Student Loan Program (SLP) for Tertiary Education

The breakthrough legislation will cost the government PHP10.486 billion in tuition and PHP6 billion in miscellaneous expense for 984,000 students in SUCs in 2018. In the state-run Bicol University in Albay's second district which Salceda represents, some 28,000 students stand to benefit from the measure with a subsidy of about PHP340 million per year.

Under RA 10931, some 295,000 students in private colleges and universities who belong to the lowest 30% income class will also be provided each with P20,000 tertiary education subsidy per semester, which may be used for tuition and other expenses. This translates to another PHP13 billion.

Salceda said the new law drew much of its provisions from the Albay model on Universal Access to College Education program he pioneered when he was governor for nine years. The program which had helped some 88,888 students in completing their studies also served as inclusive tool and key to Albay's poverty reduction from 41% in 2007 to 17.1% in 2015.

Students in community colleges may have to wait awhile, however, since only 16 out of 111 local universities and colleges (LUCs) are presently accredited by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). Government subsidy for LUCs' student is estimated at PHP113 million. Salceda said the program also provides for some PHP1.3 billion in student loans for those who belong to the lowest 30% who may need additional financial resources in pursuing their college studies.

Thank you Mr. President for launching the 2nd generation social revolution in erecting a pillar of a more egalitarian society, Salceda said following the announcement of the President's approval of the measure.

Contrary to misperceptions, the new law has built-in mechanisms that would encourage increased participation in the program from all socio-economic classes, specially the poor. Salceda said RA 10931 would now give poor students the drive to strive further for self development through free tertiary and technical-vocational education, the high costs of which had previously demoralized and forced them to settle for low paying jobs to survive.

Salceda said RA 10931, aside from its mechanisms that provide all Filipinos equal opportunities to quality education in private and public educational institutions, also aims to prioritize academically able poor students, ensure optimized utilization of government resources in education and recognize the complementary roles of public and private institutions in the tertiary educational system.

The new law consolidated Salceda's HB 2771 and a similar bill by party list and Sarah Jane Elago (KABATAAN), but adopted the key provisions and title of Salceda's original bill. The consolidated measure includes a National Student Loan Program (NSLP) administered by the UniFAST Board. loans from which will be payable after the beneficiaries shall have graduated, found gainful employment and earning sufficient or lot lower than PHP360,000 annually. The payments will be collected as additional percentage on top of their Social Security System (SSS) or Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) premiums.

The feature was wholly adopted from Salceda's Albay Higher Education Contribution Scheme, patterned after the Australian model of free higher education, and renamed NSLP.

Source: Philippine News Agency