Students urged to avail of assistance

Caecent No-ot Magsumbol (The Freeman) - November 27, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is encouraging students aiming to go to college to avail of the government’s educational assistance programs.

With more families trying to make ends meet due to COVID 19 pandemic, Atty. Ryan Estevez said, students in the Visayas should take advantage of the assistance.

“The government’s free tertiary education program is designed to give universal access to quality tertiary education para magkaroon lahat ng pagkakataon na makapag-aral,” Estevez said via Mugstoria Ta of Assistant Secretary Anthony Gerard ‘Jonji’ Gonzales of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas(OPAV).

Estevez is executive director of CHED’s Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST).

There are several programs under Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, which was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2017, including free higher education, tertiary education subsidy (TES), and student loan program.

One can avail of the free higher education by enrolling in state universities and colleges (SUCs) or in CHED-recognized local universities and colleges (LUCs). Aspiring students can take admissions/entrance exams of the said institutions for free.

The Free Higher Education exempts students from paying tuition and 13 other school fees (admission, athletic, computer, cultural, development, entrance, guidance, handbook, laboratory, library, medical/dental, registration, and school ID fees).

Students though still need to pay the specialized fees or course-specific expenses (such as on-the-job-trainings, related learning experiences for nursing students), and contingent fees (i.e. resulting from negative behavior) not covered by the law.

Under the free tertiary education program, there were 266,950 beneficiaries enrolled in SUCs and 38,922 enrolled in LUCs in the Visayas. The total tuition and other fees reached more than P1.97 billion.

Estevez added that the government targets the same number of beneficiaries for the second semester.

College students may also apply for CHED’s Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) “to support at least the partial cost of tertiary education, inclusive of education-related expenses.”

The TES is a government grants-in-aid program that gives P60,000 per school year to financially-needy students in private schools and those studying in private schools in municipalities and cities without public universities.

TES grantees enrolled in SUCs and LUCs will be reimbursed P40,000 while those enrolled in private higher education institutions will get P60,000 reimbursement. They will also receive one-time maximum reimbursement of P10,000 for licensure exams expenses.

TES grantees with disabilities, on the other hand, will also get an additional P30,000. For the first semester of academic year 2019-2020, there were 51,906 TES grantees in the Visayas with a total grant amount of over P1.069 billion, disclosed Estevez.

For those who did not qualify for free higher education and TES, a student loan program (SLP) can also be availed. Up to P60,000 per program cycle at zero interest if paid within the loan term can be availed.

In the Visayas, there are 174 of the 270 loan applicants were qualified. Of this number, 77 are in Region VI, 93 in Region VII and only three in Region VIII, according to Estevez.

The total loan amount for the three regions under SLP reached P3.055-million, which is way below the P1-billion total SLP budget for the entire country.

Estevez expressed hope that the applicants for SLP from the Visayas will increase by urging those interested to avail of the student assistance programs to visit the official UniFAST Facebook Page or official website at https://unifast.gov.ph/.

UniFAST reconciles, improves, strengthens, expands, and puts under one body all government-funded modalities of Student Financial Assistance Programs (StuFAPs) for tertiary education – and special purpose education assistance – in both public and private institutions. — KQD (FREEMAN)

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