“Tuition deferment” for state college students financially ruined by typhoons is a “missing puzzle” in the government’s assorted tuition aid and scholarship packages, according to Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto.
“What’s lacking in the menu is the important lifeline that must be given to enrolled students whose families have been bankrupted by calamities,” Recto said.
“There should be a system wherein students whose homes and farms have been destroyed by a typhoon can seek tuition deferment, discount, or even write off, and other in-campus help like forgiveness of fees, like a freeze in dormitory payments,” he said.
“Ang tulong kasi inaayos sa simula ng pasukan, pero wala na sa gitna,” he said. “What must be created is a system which could help calamity-affected students so they will not drop out of school.”
“Dapat pati scholarships mayroong climate change adaptation,” he stressed.
Recto noted that while “big departments have quick reaction funds to spend in the aftermath of calamities, there is none, however, for students in 114 state universities and colleges (SUCs).”
“Patching this gap,” Recto said, is the job of the soon-to- be created seven-person Board of the UniFAST or the Unified Student Financial System for Tertiary Education.
President Aquino signed Republic Act 10687 creating UniFAST on Oct. 15.
Its Board – headed by the Chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) with the Secretary of Science and Technology as deputy – will implement the law’s goal of “harmonizing, expanding, improving” all components of the government’s “student financial assistance program” or StuFAP.
As explained in RA 10687, there are three modalities of StuFAP: scholarship, grant-in-aid, and student loan.
For 2016, Recto computed that value of government tuition assistance and scholarship grants in all levels, including basic education, will reach almost P34 billion.
This figure does not include scholarships granted by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), police and military academies, by the 95 colleges run by local governments, by SUCs, and medical scholarships managed by the Department of Health.
Included in the amount is the P2B that CHED will spend for its various student financial assistance programs.
Next year the government will also be spending P850 million to finance the studies of 3,201 scholars taking up masteral and doctoral degrees in science, engineering and mathematics.
This is on top of the P1.33 billion for the tuition, monthly stipend and other allowances of 16,557 students enrolled in science-related undergraduate courses.
Recto said the 114 SUCs will receive P46 billion in national government subsidy in 2016. This will be augmented by their internally-generated income, mostly tuition, which last year reached P18 billion.
More than 1.3 million students go to taxpayers-funded tertiary schools.