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Senator Gatchalian renews call to institutionalize free SUC tuition

Senator Win Gatchalian listens to a criminology student leader of the Laguna State Polytechnic University in Sta. Cruz, Laguna, in this Nov. 2015 file photo, taken on one of his series of extensive consultation meetings with various state colleges and universities (SUCs) in the country for his proposal to abolish tuition fees. (Photo by Mark Cayabyab)

Senator Win Gatchalian has called on both houses of Congress to prioritize the passage of legislation to institutionalize the free tuition policy in state universities and colleges provisionally established for the 2017-2018 school year by a special provision in the 2017 budget.

“The PHP 8.3 billion fund for free tuition in SUCs is a promising start, but there is still more work left to be done. In order to build on the gains in access to tertiary education which this program will certainly provide, we have to take the next step by permanently institutionalizing the free tuition policy through legislation,” said Gatchalian, the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts, and Culture.

To support his push for further legislation, Gatchalian explained that funding the education of SUC students requires multi-year budgetary planning over four to five years – the typical length of an undergraduate degree program.

Without a law in place mandating annual funding for a permanent policy, Gatchalian expressed concern that SUC students could stand to lose their tuition benefits if Congress fails to include a budget insertion to fund the program in the future.

“We need to pass a law which would create a sort of security of tenure for SUC students by establishing a mechanism which will guarantee funding for their tuition over the entire span of their degree program. Otherwise, their right to education will be left at the mercy of budget season politics,” said Gatchalian.

Aside from protecting student rights, Gatchalian also said that it would be prudent to pass more detailed legislation to clarify the parameters of the free tuition policy, and to establish strict safeguards which would insulate the appropriated funds from any threat of corruption of impropriety.

Gatchalian noted that several measures calling for a permanent free tuition policy SUCs are already pending in the respective education committees of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, including Gatchalian’s measure, Senate Bill No. 198, otherwise known as the Free Higher Education Act.

“I hope that both houses of Congress will work together to secure, once and for all, the right of every Filipino to a college education by making permanent the free tuition policy in time for the start of the 2018-2019 school year,” said Gatchalian. #