Rep. Lazatin hails free tuition fee law

ANGELES CITY – Pampanga First District Rep. Carmelo “Jon” B. Lazatin II yesterday hailed the signing into a law mandating free tuition fee in state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the Philippines.

Lazatin, one of the co-authors at the House of Representative of Republic Act No. 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act signed by President Duterte recently, said the law will usher in a new era on the country’s college educational system.

“For so many years, we are dreaming of equal opportunity to quality tertiary education in both the private and public educational institutions. Today, that vision becomes a reality,” Lazatin stressed, adding that the new decree manifests the government’s desire to champion the “inalienable rights of all Filipinos to free education.”

The law, which would take effect in the second semester of School Year 2017-2018, will exempt qualified students from paying tuition and other school fees provided that “it shall not cause or authorize the reduction or removal of any benefit” which the national or local government may have granted to the students, teachers and other school personnel of SUCs and Technical-Vocational Institutions (TVIs).

Under Section 7 of RA 10931, a Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) for financially disadvantaged students will be established and the appropriate amount shall be administered by the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education Student (UniFAST) Board.

Lazatin said the TES, which will be included in the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) budgets, shall be utilized to support poor but deserving students as determined by the UniFAST Board.

He added that reasonable allowance for books, supplies, transportation, miscellaneous personal expenses, purchase or rental of computer or laptop and other education-related expenses approved by the UniFAST Board will also be covered by the TES.

For students with disabilities, a financial grant related to the student’s disability, including special services, personal assistance, transportation, equipment and supplies verified by the school where the students are enrolled will likewise be incorporated in the TES, Lazatin said.

The lawmaker stressed that for students in programs requiring professional license or certification, the one-time cost of obtaining the first professional credentials or qualifications is included in the TES too.

Meanwhile, although President Duterte’s economic managers expressed apprehension on how to fund the free tuition fee scheme, Lazatin said the chairpersons of the Senate finance and House appropriations committees assured the public that they will find the needed budget.