MANILA — In keeping with the government’s policy to protect and promote all citizens’ right to quality and accessible education, President Benigno S. Aquino III has approved Republic Act 10648 or the ‘Iskolar ng Bayan’ Act of 2014.
President Aquino signed the law on Thursday (Nov. 27), following its enactment by members of the 16th Congress through the consolidated Senate Bill No. 2275 and House Bill No. 4860 last September.
The ‘Iskolar ng Bayan’ Act seeks to “democratize access to higher education by institutionalizing a college scholarship program” for public high school students who are in the Top 10 of their respective graduating classes.
These underprivileged yet deserving students shall be granted automatic scholarships to any of their preferred state universities and colleges (SUCs) nationwide, except the University of the Philippines, subject to the schools’ academic standards, application, and admission policies.
“A public high school with more than five hundred (500) graduates shall be entitled to one (1) additional scholarship slot in SUCs for every five hundred (500) graduates. The additional slots shall be given to graduates whose ranks immediately follow the top 10 students and who will enroll in SUCs after meeting the admission requirements for freshmen,” the law stated.
The scholarship program will apply only for the students’ freshman year but the students may apply for financial assistance from the government through the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for their succeeding years in college.
The government has allocated a total of Php 3.5 billion in its proposed 2015 national budget to fund scholarships in the SUCs, while the CHED was allotted Php 2.2 billion to provide for the students’ financial aid.
All SUCs are mandated to grant scholarships to qualified public high school graduates seeking admission to their schools, so long as they have passed the entrance examination and have complied with the admission requirements.
However, SUCs may limit the number of students they can accept, “if the number of applicants eligible and applying for admission exceeds by more than five percent of the average number of first-time freshmen admitted to the schools during the first two academic years preceding the entry of the applicant.”
“The Commission on Higher Education and the concerned SUCs shall establish the appropriate guidelines in the acceptance of top public high school graduates,” the law said.
The University of the Philippines has already been considered excluded from coverage of the law, given its distinction as a national university that has institutional autonomy over its rules and regulations under the UP Charter of 2008.
The Department of Education (DepEd), CHED, and all SUCs concerned are expected to work together for the effective implementation of this scholarship program.
“The CHED and the DepED, in consultation with relevant stakeholders in higher education, shall issue within sixty (60) days after the effectivity of this Act, the rules and regulations for the effective implementation of this Act,” the law said.
Local government units and private higher educational institutions are also encouraged to create their respective versions of the scholarship program. Private corporations, meanwhile, are asked to support this endeavor under their corporate social responsibility projects.
Funding for the program will be included in the annual budget of CHED and the SUCs concerned. The CHED is expected to rigorously evaluate the program, in terms of its impact on desired results and its progress towards achieving them, at least every five years upon the date of its implementation.