Northern Samar 1st District Representative Paul Daza (File photo)

MANILA – Northern Samar (1st District) Representative Paul Daza on Wednesday called on the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the economic managers to immediately reimburse the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) payables to the private colleges to prevent their possible closure.

Daza made this remark after the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) said in recent congressional hearings that TES payables to different schools have already reached PHP6 billion.

It was also revealed that the Higher Education Development Fund (HEDF) currently has unspent PHP10.1 billion.

He said based on the CHED’s most recent data, the attrition rate for Academic Years (AY) 2017-2021 increased to a staggering 47.61 percent across all Higher Education Institution (HEI) categories (state, local and private), showing a 9.78 percent increase from the 37.83 percent attrition rate for AY 2016-2021.

“Nakakapanghinayang at nakakalungkot (So regrettable and saddening). We have the funds to change this. The question now is, does CHED and DBM have the will to do what must be done? They have the power to utilize the HEDF. We have one of the best if not the best law on free education but we’re wasting it due to poor implementation,” he said.

Republic Act 10931 or “The Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act” took effect in 2018 after was signed by former President Rodrigo Duterte on Aug. 3, 2017.

“It took a very strong political will to be able to enact a law like this. As far as we know, there are less than 30 countries in the world where there is free tertiary education—and many are in developed and upper-middle income countries. We are among the luckiest, so to speak. However, it seems we are wasting this golden opportunity,” Daza said.

“Do we really have to wait for these schools to close down before deciding to pay them?” he asked.

RA 10931 mandated the free college tuition in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs).

The law also recognizes that those who are part of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) “Listahanan”, 4Ps and other programs for the poor should also get TES in addition to the free tuition, which ranges between PHP40,000 (SUCs) to PHP60,000 (private colleges) per year to support their living expenses.

However, CHED Region 1 (Ilocos) Director Danilo Bose recently confirmed that there is no fund allocated for new TES beneficiaries because it was not included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) in 2021, 2022, and 2023. CHED allocated TES only for those in 3rd and 4th year college beneficiaries.

Under current regulations, the Listahanan identifies poor families including 4Ps beneficiaries.

In 2019, DSWD submitted a list of potential TES beneficiaries of about 1 million students but only about 12,000 received funding.

Daza said according to the World Economic Forum (2022), students risk losing USD17 trillion in lifetime earnings in present value, or about 14 percent of today’s global gross domestic product or GDP, “because of Covid-19- related school closures and economic shocks.”

“This gives us all the more reason to prioritize education. The perennial habit or culture of taking education off the list of priorities has to be stopped. We need reforms and we can begin in CHED,” Daza said. (PNA)