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Sen. Gatchalian releases free SUC tuition policy paper

Senator Win Gatchalian at his Senate office, the epicenter of his prime advocacy for national progress thru education. ​The lawmaker made the first call to the government to abolish tuition fees in all state colleges and universities by filling the Free Higher Education Act as a congressman in 2015. (Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN)

The Office of Senator Win Gatchalian has released a policy paper discussing the merits of making tuition free in state universities and colleges (SUCs) in a bid to convince members of both houses of Congress to legislate the policy into law before the end of the First Regular Session of the 17th Congress.

The paper, titled “A Discussion on the Value of Free Higher Education”, details the empirical evidence in support of institutionalizing the free tuition policy in SUCs.

“This policy paper is the product of almost two years of intensive research and number crunching. I hope the arguments put forth in this paper will convince my colleagues in the Senate, as well as our peers in the House of Representatives, to prioritize passage of the free tuition measure,” said Gatchalian, the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts, and Culture.

The paper is composed of three parts, the first of which outlines glaring inequalities in access to higher education, indicating that as many as 3.4 million college-aged Filipinos are unable to pursue a college education due to financial constraints.

The second part of the paper, titled “The Primacy of Higher Education in Promoting and Sustaining Development,” provides statistical evidence which “makes it clear that higher levels of educational attainment correspond to higher proportions of individuals with higher levels of income.”

This section also emphasizes the fiscal sustainability of the free tuition policy by showing that the government will be able to recoup its investment in program beneficiaries within 21 months from their entry into the workforce, through income tax payments.

Meanwhile, the final part of the paper estimates that the program will only cost the government an additional PHP 15.4 billion per year – only a small fraction of the national budget.

Noting strong support for the measure in both houses of Congress, Gatchalian expressed confidence that the free tuition policy would be passed into law in time for the opening of classes for the 2017-2018 school year.

“I am inspired and humbled by how the idea of free tuition has caught fire since we first filed this bill almost two years ago. Passage of the Free Higher Education Law would be nothing less than a landmark reform which will chart a new course for our education sector, uplifting the lives of millions of Filipinos in the process,” said Gatchalian.

Gatchalian also challenged critics of the free tuition policy to answers the arguments contained in the policy paper with evidence-based research of their own.

“So far, critics of our advocacy have been unable to muster anything more than unfounded speculations and motherhood statements in support of their arguments. Let’s see if they can come up with something more substantial,” Gatchalian said.