House approves bill granting free tuition in SUCs
The House of Representatives on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to promote universal access to quality tertiary education by providing free tuition in state universities and colleges and state-run technical vocation schools.
During plenary, at least 221 members of the lower House approved on final reading House Bill 5633 which also seeks to strengthen the Unified Student Financial Assistance System (UniFAST) for tertiary education approved and signed into law during the previous 16th Congress.
According to the bill, all Filipino undergraduate students in any SUCs should be exempt from paying tuition and other school fees.
The bill also provides free technical vocational (techvoc) education and training in post-secondary technical vocational institutions.
The bill also deems unlawful the collection of tuition and other school fees from qualified students in SUCs and techvoc schools.
The bill creates the Student Loan Program for Tertiary Education where students may avail themselves of the loan program through UniFAST.
In explaining her vote to the bill, Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago said she voted yes with reservations over fears that the bill would serve as a guise for SUCs to be financially independent through tuition increases and a socialized tuition system.
Elago also said the bill does not seek to question the commercialized nature of tertiary education in the SUCs.
“Kabataan Partylist voted in favor of HB 5633 because it is a step forward in making public education free at all levels. However, we remain to have strong reservations, as we still observe those contentious provisions that we have pointed out in the past,” Elago said.
“We are concerned that this could be a Trojan Horse. While the bill introduces free tuition and other school fees for undergraduate students in SUCs, it also aims to cement the dominance of commercial interest in the Philippine tertiary education landscape,” she added.
A similar version of the bill in the Senate was also approved on final reading, paving the way for a congressional bicameral conference to consolidate the two versions before the bill is transmitted to the President for approval.
The bill for free tuition in SUCs was approved following the realignment in the 2017 budget of P8.3-billion originally allocated to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) development projects, to the Commission on Higher Education to provide free tuition for SUCs.
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