Press Release
October 16, 2016

Senate finance heads seek increase in budget for scholarship programs

The Senate finance committee chairperson, Sen. Loren Legarda, and the vice chairperson handling the budget for tertiary education, Sen. Sonny Angara, have called for higher budget allocation for the government's scholarship program to give free college education to more poor and disadvantaged students in the country.

Under the 2017 budget proposal, P5.6 billion of the total P13.4-billion budget for the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is allotted for its scholarship programs. The proposed funding increased by P3.4 billion from this year's allocation.

With the budget hike, CHED Chairperson Patricia Licuanan said the number of scholarship beneficiaries will rise to 437,522 in 2017 from 271,209 slots this year.

Senators Legarda and Angara asked the CHED how much it would cost to give free college education for all students enrolled in state universities and colleges (SUCs).

Licuanan said the price tag would be P258 billion a year, taking into consideration the increase in enrolment in SUCs with students migrating from private schools.

Currently, approximately 4.1 million students are enrolled in higher education institutions--1.9 million of which are enrolled in public schools while 2.2 million are in private schools.

Given that the sum of free college education for all would to be too hefty for the government to shoulder, the senators said the government should first prioritize the poorest of the poor in providing free education.

Of the current enrolment in SUCs, Licuanan noted that only eight percent come from the bottom socio-economic class.

"Despite the great efforts of the government to widen the access to education, the reality is that majority of our poor families are still unable to send their kids to school. Our challenge now is to ensure that every Filipino family will be given the opportunity to have at least one college graduate who will help them rise from poverty," Angara said.

Thus, he has filed Senate Bill 133 or the "One Family, One Graduate Act" that entitles poor but deserving students, giving priority to beneficiaries of the government's Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), to a free college education until they graduate.

The proposed measure institutionalizes the CHED's Expanded Student Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA), which awards student-grantees under 4Ps a maximum of P60,000 per academic year to cover the cost for tuition and other school fees.

At present, only up to 40,000 students can avail of the grants-in-aid of the total 4.4 million household-beneficiaries of 4Ps.

"Aside from tuition, poor families are also burdened by the costs of dorm, fare, food, books and other basic school supplies. It's great that this grant includes stipend to further assist the parents with the expenses," Angara said.

Meanwhile, Legarda urged the CHED to prioritize science, technology, engineering, agri-fisheries, and mathematics (STEAM) courses in the grant of scholarships.

Both senators said they support higher education's proposed budget with recommendation to increase the allocation for the scholarship programs.

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