MANILA – The Senate on Monday passed on third and final reading a bill seeking to unify all government scholarship programs for tertiary education to make it more accessible to the poor but deserving students.
Under Senate Bill No. 2679, all the existing Student Financial Assistance Programs (StuFAPs) for college, whether nationally or locally funded, would be consolidated into one government-funded program to be overseen by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
Senator Sonny Angara, principal author of the bill, said the government had in place up to 62 Student Financial Assistance Programs across 17 agencies.
Though some programs performed relatively well, he said, a majority had low coverage.
“To date, we have no way of checking whether the education grants extended by the government had actually reached those who deserved it, much less whether such assistance helped students land decent job and earn higher salaries. Without any institutional means of tracking, we may never know for sure,” Angara said.
Senator Pia Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate committee on education, culture and arts, said the current StuFAP system served only about 60,000 students in 2011 or only two percent of the 2.7 million students.
”There were hundreds of thousands of eligible students in need of financial assistance,” Cayetano said.
“This bill is expected to harmonize, reform, strengthen, expand, rationalize and refocus all existing modalities of StuFAPs for tertiary education in both public and private institutions, whether nationally or locally funded,” she said.
Once passed into law, Cayetano said the bill was expected to increase the enrollment and completion rate in tertiary education, especially among the poor, by allocating and efficiently utilizing government resources under the Unified Student Financial Assistance System (UniFAST).
Cayetano said a UniFAST Board, to be headed by CHED, will be created to craft, approve and review policies and strategies for providing StuFAPs for tertiary education.
The board will also coordinate all the implementing agencies of StuFAPs and lay down guidelines to ensure efficient generation and delivery of funding for the programs as well as effective implementation of policies.
Cayetano said the board’s secretariat will create and maintain a comprehensive database system on the government’s scholarship programs for transparency and monitoring purposes.
Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said that the measure was part of the Senate’s efforts to “streamline the process of admission into our government’s scholarship programs and ensure that qualified young Filipinos have access to quality education.”