FINALLY, universal access to college education is now a reality. The Senate-House bicameral committee has passed the much anticipated Universal Access to Tertiary Education Act of 2017 which may now be in Malacañang for the signature of President Duterte.
The approved legislation consolidated House Bill 2771 by Albay Rep. Joey Salceda which served as its working draft, and two others by party-list Reps. Antonio Tinio (Teachers) and Sarah Jane Elago (Kabataan), which in turn was merged with its Senate’s version.
With finally enacted, children from poor families will have equal chances to earn college degrees and aspire for much better lives than what they have now. They may start availing of the new law’s benefits as early as the second semester of school year 2017-2018.
Under the measure, students in state universities and colleges (SUCS), local community colleges and those accredited by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) will pay no more tuition and miscellaneous fees.
It also provides subsidies and loans for students in private colleges, patterned after the Albay model that Salceda pioneered as governor for nine years before he returned to Congress.
Salceda stressed the value of higher education in economic development. Tertiary education, he said, is one of the three principal factors which enabled Albay to reduce its poverty incidence from 41% to 15%. His massive college scholarship program benefited some 89,000 baccalaureate and related degrees. Together with infrastructure and tourism development, they served to distribute economic gains and push development.
Indeed the new law can be a “real game changer that will provide lasting effects on the country’s growth”. As Salceda puts it, “if a youth from a remote isolated community is admitted to Management Engineering at the Ateneo de Manila, there should be no economic reason stopping him from completing his course and be competitive in the professions and the jobs of the future, and realizing his dream for a better life.”
The measure allocates some P20 billion subsidy for poor students in public, private and community colleges accredited by CHED, and P10 billion for student loans which they can tap for cost of living allowances and other school expenses. The loans is payable when the borrower had finished his studies and got employed with a viable salary.