House bill seeks free public college education
MANILA, Philippines – A bill seeking to provide free college education was filed in the House of Representatives on Monday, January 23.
House Bill 4800 or the Comprehensive Free Public Higher Education Act, filed by Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago, will cover all public tertiary education institutions such as state universities and colleges (SUCs) and local universities and colleges (LUCs).
Under the proposal, students enrolled in these schools "shall be free from payment of tuition and other school fees, except fees related to student activities" such as student organizations, student government, and campus publications.
The bill will impose a "no collection policy" on all public colleges and universities, to prohibit tuition collection and introduction of new fees.
Aside from free education, the bill also seeks to provide an opportunity for college dropouts to be readmitted to finish their studies without having to worry about their expenses.
A special grant, which will provide additional support for indigent students, will be created. This will cover allowance for books, transportation, board and lodging, and other miscellaneous expenses. Students with disabilities may also receive special services and assistance through this special grant. (READ: Bills seeking to make education more accessible pushed in Congress)
It also pushes to craft a new curriculum for higher education that will be more "nationalistic, scientific and mass-oriented."
Millions unable to enter college
"If passed, this bill stands to benefit not only the 1.6 million students currently enrolled in SUCs, but also millions others who will be able to enter college without fearing the heavy costs," said Elago.
In the bill's explanatory note, Elago cited a Commission on Higher Education (CHED) report that 37.8% of the bottom 20% of the population point to expenses as reason for not pursuing a college education.
The higher education system is also dominated by the private sector, with 1,706 private schools and only 228 public schools. This brings the enrollment in private schools to 2.2 million, but only 1.8 million students are enrolled in publicly-funded institutions.
Based on the 2013 Functional Literacy, Education, and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS), over 4 million Filipinos aged 6 to 24 are out-of-school youth while 7.6 million reach college but are unable to graduate.
For this year, CHED has been given P8.3 billion ($167.17 million) to provide free tuition in SUCs.
Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, chairman of the Senate education committee, said a law must be passed so that free college education may be implemented annually. – Rappler.com
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