MANILA, Philippines – A Commission on Higher Education (CHED) task force has completed the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the tuition-free policy which has an P8.3-billion allocation under the 2017 budget.
In a statement on Tuesday, January 24, CHED Chairperson Patricia Licuanan said the IRR will be submitted to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for review within the week.
It is expected to be signed in February, after which CHED will ask state universities and colleges (SUCs) to submit their operating budget as required by law, so that "appropriate payments" will be given to SUCs in advance to help them prepare for academic year 2017-2018.
"We will conduct a comprehensive information campaign soon after to ensure that deserving students have the chance to benefit from this game-changing policy in higher education," Licuanan said in the statement.
She said the Commission will implement the policy so that it will benefit the "financially disadvantaged but academically able students," as ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte in his message to Congress last December.
The CHED chairperson recently drew flak after she said in a television interview that the tuition-free policy will not benefit the poor, since the poorest of the poor "are not yet in college" and only 8% of those in college belong to the poorest quintile. (READ: Free tuition in state colleges: When CHED officials clash)
Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV called the Commission "out of touch" for making such claims, while his fellow senator Ralph Recto said the description "has no factual basis."
CHED Commissioner Prospero de Vera III, meanwhile, criticized Licuanan's remarks as "insensitive and elitist." (READ: Higher budget, free tuition in state colleges: Easier said than done)
The IRR of the tuition-free policy was formulated by a task force composed of representatives from CHED, the DBM, the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges, the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations, and staff from the Senate and the House of Representatives.
CHED said that while crafting the IRR, the task force took into consideration a reminder from the DBM that "the right to choose a profession or course of study is still subject to fair and equitable admission and academic requirements."
Aside from the tuition-free policy, CHED also has student financial assistance programs and the Expanded Student Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation which extend and expand scholarship grants and financial assistance to poor but deserving college students. – Rappler.com
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