By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
With tighter admission policies in public higher education institutions (HEIs), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) reminded students who wish to pursue tertiary education that there are other options or “exits” available for them.
“The intention of the law is to provide a range of options to students who want to go to higher education,” said CHED Officer-in-Charge (OIC) and Spokesperson J. Prospero De Vera III pertaining to the Republic Act (RA) 10931 or the “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (UAQTEA). “What the law provides is options, what option you’ll take, that’s the decision of the student,” he added.
De Vera acknowledged that many students may not be accommodated by State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) as well as Local Universities and Colleges (LUCs) due to “tighter” and “stricter” admission policies with the implementation of the Free Higher Education law.
Currently, all 112 SUCs and 78 LUCs accredited by CHED will benefit from the UAQTEA. CHED is anticipating around 1.4 million students who will benefit from the RA 10931 which will be implemented starting Academic Year (AY) 2018-2019. However, these public HEIs cannot take in all applicants because they are restricted by their carrying or absorptive capacity.
De Vera said that students who were not accommodated by SUCs or LUCs – mainly due to stricter admission policies – have other options. “SUCs [and LUCs] are not the only entry point for students to go to higher education,” he said. “It [also] depends on the inclination of the student,” he said.
Earlier, some youth groups criticized CHED for not accrediting all LUCs. De Vera, on the other hand, noted that only 78 LUCs were accredited by CHED because they were able to comply with the requirements and standards set by the Commission.
“The law provides that the LUCs should be evaluated by CHED first,” De Vera said. “The problem is some LUCs submitted their documents very late while the others have not applied until now,” he added. Evaluation of LUCs who have applied, he explained, is ongoing. “We will release the additional list of accredited LUCs by next year because we cannot allow additional LUCs to start reimbursing now since it will affect the budget,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, De Vera also noted that application across SUCs is also “uneven” – with some students’ tendency to go to one SUC while others tend to go to another. “So, we’re telling the SUCs that those who did not qualify to guide them [applicants] to the other SUCs in the area who might have slots available,” De Vera said.
With the admission tests now free, De Vera noted that there should be nothing that could stop a student from taking admission tests in several public HEIs. “Admission test are now free for all SUCs and LUCs… we’ve taken out the cost of the admission test by charging it to the law,” he said. “The admission test of about P200 to P400 is still expensive so we have decided to make it free so all the SUCs need to do is count all those who have taken admission tests and we will pay them, the government will shoulder the admission tests so the choice is still up to the student,” he added.
Those who cannot make it to SUCs or LUCs, De Vera said that they have an option to take Technical-Vocational Education and Training (TVET) which is also covered by the RA 10931 under the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA).
Aside from Free Higher Education – wherein the government will provide free tuition, miscellaneous and other similar or related fees to students admitted in SUCs and CHED-recognized LUCs – and the TVET for those enrolled in state-run Technical Vocational Institutions (TVIs), De Vera noted that the other components of the RA 10931 will also enable students to pursue higher education.
The Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) or grants-in-aid component, for instance, can accommodate at least 300,000 beneficiaries who can go to private universities. “There’s no stopping them to go to private universities if they don’t make it to SUCs or LUCs,” he said. Students may also apply for the national Student Loan Program (SLP) which is also another component of the free higher education law.