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‘Poor but academically-able’ studes priority in SUCs’ tuition-free policy

By Sally A. Atento LEGAZPI CITY --- Beneficiaries of the government’s student financial assistance programs (StuFAPs) and conditional cash transfer program will be prioritized in this school year’s implementation of the tuition-free policy, according to officials here of Commission on Higher Education (CHED). “Free tuition fee is not for all. Not everyone can avail [of] it since we only have limited budget allocation; but we will assure that poor students will be prioritized,” CHED Regional Director George M. Mediavillo clarified during a press conference held at the Bicol University Amphitheater here Wednesday last week. Cyril V. Badiola, CHED education program specialist and Student Financial Assistance Programs (STUFAPS) coordinator for Bicol, said poor but “academically-able” students are ranked first to enjoy tuition-free admission in state universities and colleges (SUCs). Badiola said that under the official implementing guidelines, the tuition of StuFAP beneficiaries who receive more than P15,000 in annual benefit will be charged against their StuFAP allocations. On the other hand, the tuition of StuFAP beneficiaries who get P15,000 or less will be charged against the free tuition allocation of their respective SUCs, Badiola added. The other students who will be included in the tuition-free status are: undergraduates whose households are beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program and Listahanan Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Graduating and other non-graduating students will be ranked according to their household per capita income. “The specific guidelines and requirements for qualified students to avail of the free tuition fee are still being finalized in the ongoing meeting at the CHED central office. We will be releasing it right after the meeting,” Badiola said. Badiola disclosed that the implementation of the tuition-free policy in the nine SUCs in the Bicol region has a total allocation of P459,686 ,000. Mediavillo said the allocation covers the academic year 2017-2018 only but a number of bills in Congress are seeking to institutionalize the tuition-free policy so that fund allocations are assured annually. The top three universities with the highest allocation are Bicol University with P128,184,000; Central Bicol State Univerity of Agriculture, P66, 354,000; and Sorsogon State College, P53, 969,000. On the other hand, the Bicol State College of Applied Sciences and Technology (Naga City) got P50, 934,000; Partido State University, P48, 916,000; Camarines Norte State College, P38, 888,000; Camarines Sur Polytechnic Colleges, P33, 601,000; Catanduanes State University, P20 million; and Dr. Emilio B. Espinosa Sr. Memorial State College of Agriculture and Technology, P18,840,000. CHED and the Department of Budget and Management earlier issued a joint memorandum that defined the implementing guidelines on the grant of free tuition in SUCs nationwide. Based on the memorandum, the budget allocations are based on the SUCs’ estimated tuition incomes or the estimated number of student-enrollees per year. Mediavillo called the press briefing to present the activities for CHED’s 23rd founding anniversary and Higher Education Week on May 15–19, 2017 with the theme “Harmony in Diversity, Connecting with the ASEAN Community.” Mediavillo and his staff also presented the other programs, projects and policies of the government with regard to higher education.

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