P16B allotted for tertiary education subsidy to cover only 300,000 students

MANILA, Philippines – Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (Unifast) officer-in-charge Carmelita Yadao Sison on Tuesday, June 19, said that the P16 billion allotted for tertiary education subsidy is only enough to cover about 300,000 students for school year (SY) 2018 to 2019. 

"Kulang 'yan (It's insufficient) because if you look at the Listahanan or the 4Ps list, there are about 1.2 million who would qualify but the money is good only for 300,000 slots," Sison told Rappler on the sidelines of the nationwide information caravan on the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act in Batangas City.

The tertiary education subsidy differs from the free tuition scheme in state universities and colleges (SUCs) as well as local universities and colleges (LUCs). Its purpose is to support the cost of tertiary education by providing allowances for books, transportation, boarding, and supplies, among others. (READ: 8 things you need to know about the free tuition law)

But Sison gave an assurance that the government will prioritize students who need the assistance most.

"We really have to do a lot of prioritization there and our prioritization is the poorest of the poor," she said.

Students from SUCs, LUCs, private higher education institutions, and technical-vocational education and training programs may avail of the tertiary education subsidy. But they must first qualify under the existing admission and retention requirements or other screening and assessment procedures required by the program.

In order to provide more students with this assistance, Sison said the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) will ask the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for more funds during the second tier of budgeting.

In the meantime, CHED and Unifast are in the process of setting guidelines on how to avail of the tertiary education subsidy. They hope to complete the guidelines before universities and colleges open for the coming school year.

More than P40 billion has been allotted for the first year of implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act. (READ: How can Congress fund free tuition law?)

The P40 billion will be divided accordingly:

Sison also said the budget for free higher education and other programs listed are enough to fund students for SY 2018 to 2019. 

According to Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges president Tirso Ronquillo, about 1.2 million students are expected to benefit during the law's first year of implementation. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.