As Congress commences its final session before the Christmas holiday, one solon is mounting a final push to pass landmark education legislation using a powerful argument – free tuition in state universities and colleges will pay for itself in the long-run.
Valenzuela City Representative Win Gatchalian urged his colleagues in the House of Representatives to prioritize the passage of House Bill No. 5905, otherwise known as the “Free Higher Education Act” during the limited session days remaining before Congress adjourns for the Christmas recess on Dec. 18.
“Time is running out on the 16th Congress. Let’s pass this bill as soon as possible and give millions of Filipino college students struggling to finance their education the best Christmas gift they could ever ask for,” said Gatchalian.
The Free Higher Education Act proposes to create a full tuition subsidy in state universities and colleges for qualified undergraduates pursuing their first degree. This proposal, which would benefit the majority of the 1.3 million students enrolled in SUCs, carries a seemingly high price tag estimated at around P15 billion.
However, Gatchalian’s research shows that the government will be able to recoup its investment in the tuition subsidy through increased economic productivity and tax liabilities of free tuition beneficiaries.
“Free SUC tuition is a gift that will keep on giving. It empowers deserving but underprivileged students to graduate from college and pursue respectable careers. In turn, these students-turned-professionals will pay off the tuition subsidy through their personal tax liabilities, which increase exponentially due to their higher earning capacities,” said Gatchalian.
According to Gatchalian, a student enrolled in a state university or college is charged on average P26,692 in tuition fees over four years to obtain a degree. Meanwhile data from the 2011 Labor Force Survey shows that, while the average high school graduate is exempted from paying income taxes under current tax brackets due to low annual income, college graduates have an average annual 12-month tax liability of P18,132.64 because of higher earnings.
Gatchalian pointed out that this increased tax collection, made possible through the increased earning power brought by a college degree, would allow the SUC student to pay off the full tuition subsidy within 1.47 years of working after graduation.
“In about one and a half years, SUC graduates will pay back to the government coffers the extra funds spent on educating them over four years. In addition, they will help build a more advanced and productive knowledge-based economy. Clearly, free tuition in SUCs isn’t a mere dole out – it’s a smart sustainable investment in Philippine human capital,” said Gatchalian.
He also urged his colleagues to focus on passing other priority measures, including the Freedom of Information Act and Resolution of Both Houses 1, which remain pending in the House.
“As a long-time local official, I understand the temptation to shift into ‘election mode’ as early as now. However, we must all remember that we are legislators first before we are politicians. Let’s finish our work in Congress first, so that when we return to our districts for election time, we can tell our constituents proudly about the landmark laws that we have passed for their benefit,” said Gatchalian. (Aureli Sinsuat)