By Sally Atento-Altea
LEGAZPI CITY --- Both the Senate and the House of Represetatives finally approved the unified version of the Universal Access to Tertiary Education Act in the final bicameral conference the other day.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, principal co-author of the bill, hailed its approval as “a landmark for social equality, a milestone in nation building and an advancement of youth development.”
Salceda said the Universal Access to Tertiary Education Act of 2017 is a measure that will provide free tuition and miscellaneous fees in state universities and colleges (SUCs) and technical vocational institutions (TVIs) run by the Technical Education and Skills Authority (TESDA) all over the country.
“Free tuition and miscellaneous fees in SUCs like Bicol University and all its campuses – in effect, SUCs are public schools for tertiary education just like Department of Education schools in basic education,” Salceda said.
Salceda has earlier announced that in Bicol, over 70,000 college students from the region’s nine SUCS and 11 TESDA schools stand to benefit from the new law.
The government will also be granting free tuition in all community colleges in the country such as the community colleges in Daraga and Polangui in the province of Albay.
On the other hand, students in private colleges will be given loans and subsidies. To be prioritized are students from poor families or those belonging to indigent and middle class families.
However, students belonging to top 10 percent of wealthy students from private universities and colleges will not qualify to avail themselves of the loan and subsidy.
Salceda noted that the payment scheme for the student loan is patterned after Albay’s Higher Education Scheme (AHECS).
Under AHECS, the beneficiary can pay the loan when his or her gross income reaches the minimum critical threshold. Payment will be collected as additional percentage on top of his or her Socal Security System or Government Service Insurance System premiums.
“Students loans will be paid only when employed. It’s the Albay model made law,” he said.
Salceda said the Universal Access to Tertiary Education will be implemented effective this Academic Year, 2017-2018.
When he was governor of Albay for consecutive nine years, Salceda instituted free tuition in all community colleges in the provinc.
He also provided scholarship grants and loans in SUCS and private colleges, which amounted to 24 percent of total provincial budget and helped some 88,000 students all over the province to finish their collegiate studies.