Free education in state colleges and universities edged closer to reality after President Duterte signed into law the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act last Thursday.
Rep. Rene Relampagos, vice chairman of the committee on higher and technical education, co-authored the bill in Congress which finally became a law after the President signed Republic Act 10931.
Relampagos lauded Pres. Duterte for signing the bill into a law despite the concerns raised by his economic team about the funding of the program starting next school year. He said the President asked Congress to make the necessary appropriations for the law, which guarantees free tuition and other miscellaneous fees for students in 112 state universities and colleges (SUCs) across the country.
The Bohol solon said this will leave no reason for young students to get enrolled in college since the government will pay for their college education.
As far as the funds are concerned, Relampagos said this will surely be implemented next school year as Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno assures available funds next school year.
Citing figures posted by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the Bohol solon said the initial P16 billion allotted for the program would be “manageable” to cover tuition and miscellaneous fees.
“I don’t know if there is budget allocated for 2017. But hopefully, this will be in place in the next enrollment period,” according to the solon.
This free college education is part of the government’s social development agenda.
“Under the law, Congress is supposed to make the necessary appropriations to fund the free SUC education project,” Relampagos said.
He said the President signed the measure amid concerns raised by his economic team that it would have serious effects on the government’s budget.
The bill co-authored by Rep. Replampagos was approved by Congress in May and was transmitted to the Office of the President on July 5 for Duterte’s signature.
The measure aims to provide subsidies to students in SUCs, local tertiary schools, as well as institutions accredited with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
Budget Secretary Diokno earlier said the government would need at least P100 billion annually to cover the free tuition for SUCs.
Rep. Relampagos said the law will take effect next school year. “The law will be prospective, not retroactive, since academic year 2017 to 2018 is already ongoing, he concluded.