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Free college tuition pioneer Albay to enrol over 30K students in 2018

By Johnny C. Nunez DARAGA, Albay -- Albay province, which pioneered the free college tuition scheme in the country, is seen to gain further from a law that gives similar benefits to Filipino students nationwide--the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act of 2017. As the national government starts to implement the law this school year, the Albay government expects to have over 30,000 students for its first batch of enrollees under the national program. Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, the principal author of the new law under Republic Act 10931, said Monday that about 17,000 of the enrollees in Albay for this coming school year would enter state universities and colleges (SUCs) and 12,000 in local universities and colleges (LUCs). Salceda noted that while Albay used to be the only province in the country enjoying free college education, all Philippine state colleges and universities now across the archipelago would start admitting enrollees under the free college tuition program this coming school year. Under the new law, 112 SUCs and 78 LUCs have so far been accredited by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), while TESDA has enlisted about 122 technical vocational institutions nationwide. Salceda first introduced the free college tuition concept under his Universal Access to College Education program in Albay, where he was provincial governor for nine years until 2016. The provincial program, he said, had helped 88,888 students complete their studies and served as the “inclusive tool and key to Albay’s poverty reduction from 41 percent in 2007 to 17.1 percent in 2015.” As Albay representative, Salceda filed HB 2771 last year, based on “lessons learned” from his Albay program, which was designed to help “solve the continuing paradox that while college education helps people escape poverty, Filipinos have to be rich to afford one.” “I have worked hard so that students in Albay community colleges, especially in Daraga Community College, Manito Community College, and Rapurapu Community College will benefit from RA 10931 which I, humbly, authored principally and which I based on the Albay experience,” Salceda said. “Free tuitions and miscellaneous fees in state-run colleges and TESDA-accredited technical vocational schools is no longer just a dream. I am humbled to be the principal author of the law that has made this a reality,” said Salceda in a recent media interview in Albay’s capital, Legazpi City. At the state-ran Bicol University in Albay’s second district, which Salceda represents, some 28,000 students stand to benefit from the measure, with an annual subsidy of about P480M. Salceda said the law is a “most vital social legislation” that ushers in the Duterte administration’s “next wave (of) social revolution in building a more egalitarian society.” Under RA 10931, aside from the free tuition and other fees, students who belong to the poorest families may even get additional financial assistance from the government in the form of conditional cash transfers. RA 10931 has mechanisms that provide all Filipinos equal opportunities to quality education in both private and public educational institutions with its Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) for Filipino Students and Student Loan Program (SLP) for Tertiary Education. Salceda, who is senior vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee that ironed out the 2018 budget for the new law, said the UAQTE program also allocates some P1.3B in student loans for those who belong to the lowest 30 percent, who might need more financial aid for their college studies. On his social media account, Salceda shared a message from the Daraga Community College (DComC ) here--the first so far to publicly announce a notice on the registration for the national free college tuition program--that the school would be giving free college education to those who would register on April 21 and pass the entrance examinations set on April 23-28.

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