Universal Access to Quality Higher Education Act

Sen. Bam: IRR key to effective implementation of free college education law

Sen. Bam Aquino stressed the need to engage and consult stakeholders before the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act is finalized. 

“There are still a lot of details to iron out before the Commission on Higher Education’s IRR is finalized. Umiikot kami sa mga state colleges and para kunin ang panig ng mga estudyante at administrators ng mga paaralan,” said Sen. Bam. 

“It is important to engage with all the stakeholders and come up with a most effective implementation plan,” added Sen. Bam, the principal sponsor and co-author of the measure in the Senate during his stint as chairman of the Committee on Education. 

As a revolutionary reform in education, Sen. Bam underscored the need to hold healthy discussions on how to craft an IRR that will ensure effective implementation, based on its original intention of the law. 

“Mahalagang mapag-usapan ang bawat detalye ng batas sa pagbuo ng IRR. Masasayang lang ang napakalaking repormang ito sa edukasyon kung hindi matututupad ang pangunahing layunin nito,” added Sen. Bam. 

Sen. Bam said other important issues such as summer and make up classes, residency issues, and grade requirements should be tackled. 

“Though we are not part of the group finalizing the IRR, we are committed to sharing the comments, concerns and suggestions we’ve collated from students, parents, teachers and other concerned citizens,” the senator said. 

The law will provide free education to students in SUCs, local universities and colleges (LUCs) and vocational schools under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). Aside from tuition fees, the government will shoulder miscellaneous and all other mandatory fees. 

Scholarship grants will also be made available to students of both public and private college and universities. Plus, it provides a new and improved student loan program, where students can apply for financing for other education expenses. 

If fully implemented, Sen. Bam said the law will benefit around two million students in all state universities and colleges and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)-run technical-vocational institutions in the country. 

In addition, students taking post-graduate studies can avail of the new and improved student loan program and scholarships under the law. 

The measure was languishing in the legislative mill for years before it was passed during Sen. Bam’s time as chairman of the Committee on Education in the 17th Congress. This was Sen. Bam’s 19th law in his four years as senator.

Sen. Bam: Lawmakers committed to fund free tertiary education completely

Sen. Bam Aquino is confident that Congress will allot the necessary budget for the free education in state colleges and universities and local colleges and universities once the measure is enacted into law. 

“The Majority and Minority are committed to fund this revolutionary initiative,” said Sen. Bam, principal sponsor and co-author of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act in the Senate.

“Upon its ratification last week, Sen. Loren Legarda, Chairman of the Committee on Finance, committed to fund this as well,” said Sen. Bam, who estimated the annual budget for free tertiary education to be between P50 to P53 billion.

 The senator is also confident that Malacanang will support the measure, being a major reform for education and poverty alleviation in the country.

 The Senate and the House have both ratified the bicameral conference committee report. It will now be transmitted to Malacanang for President Duterte’s approval.

If passed into law, education in SUCs, LUCs and vocational schools under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) will be virtually free, with the government shouldering tuition, miscellaneous and other fees.

 Another salient feature of the measure is the loan program, where students can apply for financing for other education expenses.

Sen. Bam said the loans will be tied up to Social Security System (SSS) and Government Service Insurance Systems (GSIS) payments to ensure that funds for student loans will not be depleted.

“Ito’y isang paraan upang masiguro na makokolekta ang bayad sa ibinigay na loan ng gobyerno sa ating mga estudyante,” Sen. Bam said.

If passed by June or July, Sen. Bam said students will benefit from the law starting the second semester of school year 2017-18.

Sen. Bam defended the measure in plenary debates and interpellation during his stint as chairman of the Committee on Education.

 Sen. Bam was also the co-chairman of the Senate delegation to the bicameral conference committee, together with new Committee on Education chairman Sen. Francis Escudero. Other members of the Senate panel were Sens. Sherwin Gatchalian and Ralph Recto.

Universal Access to Quality Higher Education Act

In the Philippines, 2 out of 5 high school graduates do not pursue tertiary education, hindered by the high tuition fees in addition to miscellaneous expenses in cured while studying. After spending many years working hard to make ends meet in order to put their children through school to obtain a high school diploma, it is often a disappointment to students who face the choice between working to help their family sacrificing the education of other siblings so that one may be sent to college.

In line with the mandate of our Constitution, the State must uphold the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels. This bill seeks to make tertiary education in all State Universities and Colleges free of tuition for its students and fully subsidized by government.

Tertiary education is a valuable key that can help Filipino families break out of the poverty cycle, as families headed by tertiary degree holders earn, on average, two times as much as families who do not have postsecondary education.

However, higher education is often only available to middle-income families who can afford the high tuition fees and extra costs. As a result, these families continue to reap the benefits of obtaining a postsecondary education while poor families continue struggling to reach beyond their current economic situation.

In a nation with glaring income and educational inequality, the provision of tuition-free college education will be one great leap toward developing our fragile benefit the most and will be empowered both economically and socially to be able to fully participate in our democratic nation.

A college education is not only a qualification that results in higher paying jobs, but it is most importantly a means for the development of knowledge, innovation and social change in a nation. Supporting the growth of higher education in the Philippines will serve to heighten the quality of our workforce so that we may partake more meaningfully in the global production of knowledge.




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