MANILA, Philippines – Top graduates of public high schools will be prioritized under the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) bill that has just hurdled the bicameral conference committee on Tuesday, June 23.
There is currently Republic Act 10648 or the Iskolar ng Bayan Act of 2014, which gives the top 10 graduates from public high schools a one-year full scholarship in state universities and colleges. (READ: Iskolar law: ‘Top high school grads should still take UPCAT’)
When the UniFAST becomes law, it will rationalize all existing student financial assistance programs of the government to help more students stay in college – beyond their freshman scholarships.
“With the UniFAST bill, the government can provide funding for the Iskolar ng Bayan’s remaining years in college on the basis of merit and academic performance,” Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said in a statement Wednesday, June 24.
During the bicam, lawmakers decided that all students under the Iskolar ng Bayan program must be given priority in the grant of student loans, and not just the top 3 as proposed earlier by Senator Ralph Recto.
“With UniFAST in place, we can finally make sense of all the money the government gives for education – to give it more direction, and make sure that the country really benefits from public funds being spent in the field of education,” said Angara, the bill’s principal author.
Other amendments to the bill that were made during the bicam include the following:
- Student beneficiaries of grants-in-aid will not be required to take qualifying examinations.
- A UniFAST Board will be created to review the performance of the program and determine whether the financial assistance helped beneficiaries get decent jobs, or make “significant contributions to community service and public good.”
Both houses of Congress will have to ratify the bicam report in July, when session resumes, before the final bill is transmitted to Malacañang for the President’s signature. – Rappler.com