Congress to ensure free tuition only for deserving students

By Jose Cielito Reganit

January 9, 2018, 5:56 pm

MANILA -- A member of the House of Representatives on Tuesday said Congress would exercise its oversight powers to ensure that state funds allocated for the government's free college tuition program would be used only on deserving students and not wasted on malingerers and recidivist absentees or 'bulakbol' students.

House Appropriations Committee Chair Karlo Nograles said state and local colleges and universities should not become “Iskul Bukol” just for the sake of providing free college education.

“Through our oversight function, Congress would assist the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the participating educational institutions in making sure that only deserving students or those who truly want to study will benefit from the free college tuition program. The funds we have set aside are simply too precious," the Davao City lawmaker said.

The landmark law, which democratized state college education, was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in August 2017.

It effectively does away with the collection of tuition and other school fees.

RA 10931's beneficiaries include students from the country's 114 state universities and colleges (SUCs), 16 local universities and colleges (LUCs) accredited by CHED and 122 technical-vocational institutions (TVIs) under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Last month, CHED reported that it had already completed the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the free tuition program, which would be rolled out this 2018.

While it has yet to be released, the IRR is expected to fine-tune details of RA 10931.

To further ensure its effectiveness, Nograles said the House of Representatives might hold hearings after every semester to check on the implementation of RA 10931, particularly on how it was helping less fortunate families in getting their children to college.

“After all, this is the spirit of the law," he pointed out.

Nograles added that CHED and other stakeholders might also use the House hearings to address the birth pangs of the implementation of the much-awaited program.

"We can't expect this to be free of hitches especially during its first year of implementation, so close coordination between lawmakers, CHED and other stakeholders is vital. We can learn the problems and solve them as we go along," he said.

The House member said these policies would discourage recidivism from students, such as absenteeism, tardiness and cutting of classes.

"It will be another victory for the law if it eventually helps get rid of these bad habits from young Filipinos in the name of free college education," Nograles said. (PNA)