(The Financial Assistance Programs)
Fr. Fernando Navidad Egargo, Ph.D.
Article XIV of the 1987 Philippine Constitution declares:(Section 1) “The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all.” (Section 2) “…to establish and maintain a system of scholarship grants, student loans programs, subsidies, and other incentives that shall be available to deserving students in both public and private schools.”
Experts agree that education is the foundation of a country’s development. A country that invests in the education of its citizenry is said to be a country that molds catalysts for its socio-economic, scientific, technological, cultural, and spiritual development.But the education is a never-ending process.This process can be from illiteracy to literacy, from moral decay to righteousness, from social apathy to involvement and participation, and so on.
The task of educating the citizens of a nation primarily belongs to the State. Other institutions, though, (like the Catholic Church or other private entities) may lend a hand in this gigantic mission, but they are not the primary agencies. So, what has the Philippine government done so far in relation to Article XIV, Sections 1-2 of the 1987 Constitution?A lot. Maybe not enough for some, but, yes, a lot had been done.
Let’s start with Republic Act No. 6655. This law was signed by President Corazon Aquinoin 1988 making secondary education in all public high schools in the Philippines free. In 2007, President Arroyo introduced 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program). At the core of the 4Ps Programwas the eradication of poverty by investing in health and education of children aged 0-18. For the education of children, the government gives P300 per child per month. There are 10 school months in one school year. Every family can register a maximum of 3 children for the program. So, this means for every eligible family with 3 registered beneficiaries, a family can receive P900 per month. This assistance, however, is under a scheme called “conditional cash transfer”. In other words, there are conditions set by the government in order for a family to receive this assistance. One of such conditions is that children must be enrolled with a class attendance of at least 85%.
For many Filipinos, secondary education is the end of their academic formation. Pursuing college degrees would entail financial constraints on many families, particularly on families who rely on fishing and farming as their only source of income. Unfortunately, a general literacy that goes with a high school diploma is not enough to land in a decent paying job. One needs a college degree.
Cognizant of this concern, the Philippine Government has introduced various means that would assist needy but deserving students get their degrees. In 2008, President Arroyo launched Student Assistance Fund for Education (SAFE)program. It was a student loan program with an initial fund of P500 million. In October 2015,President Benigno Aquino III signed Republic Act 10687. The Unified Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Act aimed to provide scholarships, grants-in-aid, and student loans for tertiary students enrolled in both in private and public Higher Education Institutions (HEI). Another form of student financial assistance is the study-now-pay-later (SNPL) program.
Then last year, Congress allotted P8.3 billion to CHED to fund free tuition(ONLY) for students enrolled in State Universities and Colleges (SUC) during the school year 2017-2018. In addition, victims of supertyphoon Yolanda were entitled to one-time P5K assistance (provided they have not received any form of government education assistance in the past). The Free Tuition scheme was launched in order to provide financial assistance to SUC student while the Free Education Bill is waiting for President Duterte’s signature. The Free Education Bill, which has already passed the bicameral conference committee, seeks to grant free college education (free tuition and other fees) for students enrolled in state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the Philippines, as well as financial assistance to students in private universities and colleges through grants and loans. If this bill is signed into law, congress will be “forced” to allocate more fund for education assistance in the 2018 national budget.
Of course this “free education” (free tuition and other fees) would also mean “death” to small private colleges who would lose prospective students. But that’s another topic altogether.