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Gatchalian’s free college will become a reality under a Grace Poe presidency

Photo by Mark Cayabyab

Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) senatorial candidate Win Gatchalian has vowed to make free higher education a reality following Partido Galing at Puso (PGP) standard bearer Grace Poe and running mate Chiz Escudero’s endorsement of the measure on Easter Sunday in Manila.

“We welcome Senators Poe and Escudero’s support for the measure, which we have long been pushing in the House of Representatives. Their endorsement further strengthens our position that fully subsidizing tuition fee in state universities and colleges (SUCs) is possible if there is firm political will.” said Gatchalian, author of House Bill No. 5905, also known as the “Free Higher Education Act”.

Gatchalian issued the statement a day after Poe, who has been leading in the presidential surveys, swore to provide free higher education to poor but deserving students not only in Manila but in the whole country.

Poe said it is important for indigent families to have their children finish tertiary education as it will enable the latter to find decent jobs. “[K]aya isa sa aming programa ay maging libre na ang kolehiyo sa mga anak ng mahihirap. Dahil, tingnan ninyo, ‘pag nakakapagtapos, mayaman ka man o mahirap, may laban ka; makakahanap ka ng mas disenteng trabaho,” she said in a speech during the general assembly of 8,000-strong Kaagapay Manileño Foundation Inc. at the Rizal Memorial stadium.

If passed into law, Gatchalian’s “Free Higher Education Act” will fully subsidize tuition fee in all state universities and colleges (SUCs) for all current and future enrollees provided they maintain good academic and moral standing. The measure has already been approved at the House committee level.

“There are higher private returns in investing in tertiary education than secondary school education. This shows the singular power of higher education in improving economic outcomes for the neediest segments of our population,” said Gatchalian, the only exclusive senatorial candidate of the Grace-Chiz tandem who is in the winning circle of senatorial bets based on recent survey of the Social Weather Station (SWS) and Pulse Asia.

Estimates from the 2014 Labor Force Survey indicate that people with at least a college degree earn P679.93 a day on the average, more than twice the daily basic pay of a high school graduate at P288.

Despite proof that there are higher returns for an individual who has completed college, Gatchalian pointed out that the government has yet to make tertiary education readily accessible especially for the millions of youth from indigent families.

Estimates culled from government data show that around 2.4 million youth are not in college because of the high costs associated with education, aside from the more than 3 million youth who are not in college because they are either working or looking for work.

Figures from a 2012 publication by the Asian Development Bank shows that tuition and fees charged per academic year by public higher education institutions in the Philippines are 80% that of the minimum in private schools (excluding one-time fees).

“The data suggests that access to higher education is restrictive. SUCs should expand access to higher education – not restrict it. How can poor households break the intergenerational cycle of poverty that has trapped them if state-run institutions themselves charge 80% as much as that of private schools?” concluded Gatchalian. (Monica Cantilero)