Youth party files ‘Comprehensive Free Public Higher Education Bill’

Monday, January 23, 2017

(See this link for full copy of House Bill No. 4800)

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago today filed House Bill 4800 or the “Comprehensive Free Public Higher Education Bill,” which seeks to grant free college education in all public higher education institutions.

The 13-page bill has been drafted following a series of consultations with student leaders and youth organizations across the country, which culminated in the “National Gathering for Free Education” last Saturday, January 21.

“This bill seeks to address the cumulative effect of decades of neoliberal restructuring in education that left Filipino students and their families heavily burdened, with most opting to drop out of school due to the prohibitive cost it entails,” Elago said.

In the explanatory note of HB 4800, Elago cited the result of the 2013 Functional Literacy, Education, and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS), which revealed that about one in every 10 or about four million Filipino children and youth 6 to 24 years old are out‐of‐school.

The 2013 FLEMMS also reveal that 9.3 percent of Filipinos aged 6 and over – or about 7.6 million – reach college but are not able to graduate. Meanwhile, the FLEMMS also show that only 20.7 percent of persons 16 to 24 years old, or one in five, attend college.

The Comprehensive Free Public Higher Education Bill has the following salient provisions:

  • Abolition of the Tuition System– The proposed bill does not espouse the concept of “subsidizing” tuition and other school fees. Rather, it rethinks the manner in which public financing of state-run higher education institutions is done. Instead of creating a separate fund to pay for the equivalent tuition and other school fee rates of students, this bill seeks to finance the actual “cost of attendance” of students, the total amount a particular state-run university or college needs to provide education for a student per year, including proportional cost per student for personnel services, maintenance and other operating expenses, and capital outlay. The total projected cost of attendance will become the primary determinant of a state-run university or college’s annual funding from the government and shall also serve as guide for the Executive Department in preparing the annual national expenditure program.
  • Readmission of drop-outs– Due to the high cost of education and related expenses, millions of students are not able to finish their studies. The bill seeks to give these out-of-school youth an opportunity to continue studies by including a provision for their readmission.
  • Special Grant for Financially-Disadvantaged Students – The bill also creates a special grant that will offer additional support for financially-disadvantaged students, outside of tuition and other school fees. This Special Grant covers:
    • Allowance for books, supplies, transportation, and miscellaneous personal expenses, including a reasonable allowance for the documented rental or purchase of a personal computer or laptop
    • An allowance for room and board costs incurred by the student
    • For a student with a disability, an allowance determined by the public higher education institution he/she is enrolled in for expenses related to the student’s disability, including special services, personal assistance, transportation, equipment, and supplies that are reasonably incurred
    • For a student in a program requiring professional licensure or certification, the one-time cost of obtaining the first professional credentials
  • Introduction of a nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented higher education curriculum– This bill also establishes a new higher education curriculum responsive to the needs and the goals of the nation. The curriculum shall
    • Foster patriotism and nationalism by instilling in every student the firm resolve never to allow our people to be dominated and controlled by foreign powers or domestic tyrants, and focusing on developing a self-reliant and independent national economy, with particular emphasis on agrarian reform, and the development of the nation’s agriculture and national industries;
    • Inculcate a scientific worldview that heightens the social consciousness of all Filipino students towards total human liberation, as well as foster a culture of learning that nurtures learning directed towards understanding and solving the basic problems of Philippine society
    • Serve to equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to serve the Filipino nation. The new curriculum shall also encourage study programs that respond to community needs. Students should not only learn through formal learning instruction and textbooks, but also through immersion into the larger society that exists beyond their classrooms

“If passed, this bill stands to benefit not only the 1.6 million students currently enrolled in SUCs, but also millions others who will be able to enter college without fearing the heavy costs. At a more fundamental level, the passage of this bill will also result in the reversal of decades of attacks on the right of every Filipino to education,” Elago said.###