Following the recent Senate passage of the bill mandating free tuition in all state universities and colleges (SUCs), Senator Sonny Angara said the next education reform in line should be the One Family, One Graduate Act.
Angara’s Senate Bill 133 gives poor but deserving students free college education until they graduate. Beneficiaries of the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) will be prioritized under such program.
“The One Family, One Graduate bill aims to ensure that every Filipino family, especially those living in poverty, has at least one college graduate. This is a good companion measure to the free college tuition bill as it would target the poorest of the poor. Habang pinagagaan natin ang gastusin ng mga estudyanteng pumapasok sa SUCs, dapat ay mas prayoridad nating tulungan ang mga pamilyang wala talagang kakayahang mapagtapos ang kanilang mga anak,” he said.
The Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF), a group of economists and education experts, has opposed the tuition subsidy for SUCs, calling it “anti-poor” as higher-income students are said to benefit more from such free tuition.
Studies showed that out of 100 students that start elementary education, approximately less than 20 are able to graduate from college, and among the primary reasons for not being able to finish their education were poverty and lack of opportunities.
The FEF pointed out that tuition covers only one-third of the cost of attending college while the balance consists of cost of living allowances.
“Education authorities are concerned that free tuition in SUCs will result in free riding as higher-income students, who have the ability to pay for living allowances, might end up using the free tuition subsidy.
“Most of our poor students drop out because of the high cost of college education. Our bill seeks to address this by covering not only the tuition but other school fees as well,” Angara said.
Under SB 133, student-grantees will be provided a maximum of P60,000 per academic year to cover the cost for tuition and other school fees–including academic and extracurricular expenses, purchase of textbooks, board and lodging, transportation, clothing, medical needs and other valid related education expenses–to complete the student-grantee’s degree program.
The senator, who is a known advocate of education reform, also filed bills providing a 20-percent student fare discount, and five-percent discount on food, medicine, miscellaneous and other school fees including books and school supplies to underprivileged students in all levels throughout the country.
Furthermore, the FEF argued that free tuition in SUCs will provide unfair competition to private institutions which, according to the group, are more efficient in providing higher education.
The FEF instead pushed for the stronger implementation of the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Act that unifies and rationalizes all modalities for student financial assistance, including scholarships, grants-in-aid and student loans.
Angara, who also authored the UniFAST law, explained that the P60,000-financial assistance will be given through a voucher system so that students and their families can choose the schools they want, whether in SUCs, private higher education institutions or in technical-vocational schools.
“Ang pinaka-layunin natin dito ay siguruhing walang maiiwan sa libreng edukasyon. Dapat bawat pamilyang Pilipino ay mayroong oportunidad na makapagpatapos ng kanilang anak, lalo na iyong mga mahihirap pero deserving, na siyang tutulong para guminhawa ang kanilang buhay,” he said.