MANILA – With only two percent of the 2.7 million tertiary students given scholarship programs in 2011, Senator Sonny Angara is pushing for the passage of a bill that puts systematic granting of financial assistance to the poor but deserving students.
“Student financial assistance should target poor, deserving students,” Angara said in his sponsorship speech on Senate Bill No. 2679 or the United Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Act.
Angara said while there are hundreds of thousands of poor but deserving students in the country, the Commission on Higher Education’s (CHED) student financial assistance programs in 2011 only served 60,000 or two percent of 2.7 million tertiary-level students.
“Government had in place up to 62 student financial assistance programs across 17 agencies. Though some programs performed fairly well, a majority of them had low coverage. More worrisome were the results of a CHED-commissioned study that showed how these programs were increasingly enjoyed by student beneficiaries from higher income families,” said Angara, a known advocate of educational reforms.
Last week, Senator Pia Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate committee on education, reported out the UniFAST bill, a consolidation of 21 Senate bills and House Bill No. 4591.
Under the proposed measure, students who have laudable academic performance will be given priority in the grant of scholarships while underprivileged students, especially whose families are recipients of the conditional cash transfer program, will be prioritized in the provision of grants-in-aid.
The student loans will also be extended to students facing liquidity problems, regardless of economic status.
The bill also seeks creation of a socialized tuition fee scheme, based on the student’s personal circumstances, family income and socio-economic characteristics, which will be used as a guide by state universities and colleges and public technical-vocational institutes throughout the country.
“We merely seek to put up a system that harmonizes our student financial assistance programs and make their administration more effective and efficient,” Angara said.
”With such a system, we empower not just CHED, but all other government agencies, to ensure that their student financial assistance rightly go to who needs it and where it’s needed the most,” he added.
In addition, the lawmaker noted that while each government agency administered their student assistance program, not a single tracer study was conducted to check whether the assistance government extended had actually reached those who deserved it and whether such assistance helped students land decent jobs and earn higher salaries.
“Tertiary education, a proven stepping ladder towards a better life, remains inaccessible and expensive to many. Hopefully, through such scheme, we step closer to realizing our goals of having one college graduate in every Filipino family,” Angara said.
The proposed bill will require student scholars to render a minimum number of years of service for the country or the implementing agency.
According to the bill, students who will violate the provision shall be required to pay in full “the amount equivalent to the student financial assistance given to the grantee.
A total amount of Php16 billion will be appropriated for the UniFAST implementation.