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Return service agreements for Free Higher Ed beneficiaries

VALENZUELA CITY, Philippines – Education students from Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Valenzuela take part in the city government’s Summer Reading Camp program where they serve as teacher aides to help young learners improve their reading skills, 22 May 2015. Free higher education advocate Senator Win Gatchalian is calling to put return service agreements (RSAs) in place as a simple way for the youth to pay it forward and contribute to nation-building. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Senator Win Gatchalian urged state and local universities and colleges (SUCs and LUCs) to develop meaningful return service agreements (RSAs) that would instill discipline in students and help them contribute to nation-building.

“The Free Higher Education Law allows our students to excel in whichever fields of study they wish to pursue by removing the burden of having to pay for tuition and other fees. A return service agreement is a simple way for them to pay it forward and contribute to nation-building,” said Gatchalian, the vice-chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts, and Culture.

Section 4, Paragraph 3 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 10931, more commonly known as the Free Higher Education Law, states that SUCs and LUCs are mandated to formulate and implement an RSA system for students benefiting from the free higher education provision law as part of their admission and retention policies. However, lawmakers in the lower house have been pressuring the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to remove the provision from the IRR.

According to CHED Officer-in-Charge Prospero de Vera III it is up to state universities, not CHED, to decide whether to implement a return service program for RA 10931 beneficiaries. Further, De Vera said that SUCs and LUCs are empowered to implement these programs even without the questioned IRR provision.

De Vera earlier said RSA programs could involve outreach activities or assisting various school offices, including libraries. CHED added that activities may vary as schools were given “maximum flexibility” to determine their return service program.

Gatchalian suggested that students could render return service to their schools by helping out as registration assistants or student assistants during the registration or enrollment period, volunteering during university-wide activities, and participating in outreach drives for victims of natural calamities organized by their schools, among others.

“Return service programs will help train our students to become more responsible citizens and prepare them to become fully integrated and productive members of society,” he said.