Amid calls to review the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education (Republic Act No. 10931) or the free higher education law, Senator Win Gatchalian seeks the expansion of State Universities and Colleges’ (SUCs) capacity so that more qualified students can receive free college education.
“Mahalagang hakbang ang pagpapatupad ng libreng kolehiyo upang mabigyan ang ating mga kabataan ng mas magandang kinabukasan. Ngunit dahil sa kakulangan ng ating mga SUCs ng mga silid-aralan, pasilidad, at mga guro, may mga kabataan pa rin tayong hindi nakikinabang sa libreng kolehiyo kahit na kwalipikado sila, at dapat natin itong tugunan,” said Gatchalian.
The lawmaker earlier pointed out how the free higher education law, which he co-authored and co-sponsored, increased the number of basic education learners who pursued college. Before the enactment of the free higher education law, the progression rates from high school to college stood at 54% and 62% for Academic Years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, respectively. On the contrary, when the free higher education law was implemented, the progression rate from senior high school to college surged to an average of 81% from 2018 to 2022.
Gatchalian, however, cited previous consultations with presidents of SUCs who lamented that some students who already passed admission exams end up not enrolling. This is because some SUCs lack enough classrooms, facilities, laboratories, and teachers, among others, to accommodate these students.
Despite the budget increase for free higher education over the years, Gatchalian previously flagged that the capital outlay for SUCs did not increase commensurately. While the consolidated number of students affected by SUCs’ limited capacity is not yet available, Gatchalian has urged the government to develop a roadmap to address capacity issues.
For 2024, the proposed budget for the implementation of the free higher education law is around P51.1 billion.
Gatchalian also reiterated that a national screening test to determine the eligibility of students for free college education is unnecessary. This is because SUCs and Local Universities and Colleges (LUCs) have their own admission exams.
Likewise, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education assured that through the Second Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM II), efforts to strengthen basic education in the country will continue which should improve learners’ chances of entering and completing college.