Free college education in SUCs doable, says lawmaker

MANILA, Philippines – A senior administration lawmaker said yesterday there is enough fiscal space to allow the government to fully subsidize tuition in all state universities and colleges (SUCs) for any undergraduate and certificate degree.

Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian, a member of the House committees on basic education and culture and on higher and technical education, said college education should be given the same priority as basic education.

“Right now it’s possible. Our proposed budget in making SUCs tuition-free is only less than one percent or 0.35 percent of the P3 trillion national appropriations for next year. This bill will benefit around 1.3 million students enrolled in SUCs,” Gatchalian said.

He said the government is capable of making SUCs tuition-free given the country’s good economic performance, improving tax collection and the unused allocation for infrastructure.

The lawmaker said emerging economies have followed in the footsteps of developed countries in Europe in prioritizing higher education.

Instituting tuition-free college education in SUCs would increase access to the Philippine higher education system to the level of developed countries with firm commitments to public education, such as Denmark, Finland, Germany, and Sweden, as well as strong emerging economies which have followed in their footsteps, such as Brazil and Chile, he said.

The Family and Income Expenditure Survey (FIES) 2012 showed that a household led by a college graduate earns an average family income that is more than twice that of a family headed by one who has only finished high school.

Gatchalian earlier filed House Bill 5905 or the proposed “Free Higher Education Act,” which seeks to cover all Filipino citizens enrolled in SUCs.

He said legislation seeks to provide for a full tuition subsidy for all current and future enrolees in SUCs. Qualified Filipino citizens will be able to avail of the full subsidy provided they maintain good academic and moral standing.

An initial amount of P10.5 billion shall be appropriated from the Presidential Social Fund to implement the proposed measure.

The measure provides for the creation of the Special Tuition Subsidy Fund, which shall be managed by the Commission on Higher Education.

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