P15 billion required for free college education

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BAGUIO CITY – The national government needs at least P15 billion annually to provide free tertiary education to more than 1.5 million students enrolled in the 112 state universities and colleges in the country for them to be able to uplift the living condition of their families in the future, Valenzuela 1st district Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian said here recently.

The lawmaker said the amount is just 0.5 percent of the over P3 trillion national budget which is easy to source out from the existing allocations in order to be able to pursue the grant of free college education to those enrolled in the different SUCs nationwide.

Rep. Gatchalian questioned the administration why it was able to allocate more than P220 billion for the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and some 120 billion for the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers which were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC) but it never provided for the meagre amount being requested for the benefit of more than 1.5 million students in the different parts of the country.

“We must be able to provide free college education to our deserving students for them to be able to acquire quality education and subsequently use what they have learned to improve the living condition of their families in the countryside,” Gatchalian stressed.

He explained the P15 billion will be downloaded to the different SUCs which will be used for the upgrading and improvement of the infrastructure and instruction of the schools in order for the SUCs to be at par with private higher education institutions even if the studies of those enrolled will be free in the future.

According to him, providing deserving students free access to education will be instrumental in increasing the productivity of people from the countryside who will be able to help earn descent income for their families and subsequently improve their living condition, thus, making education one of the means to curb the proliferation of poverty in the countryside.

He said the P15 billion for the free college education of students enrolled in SUCs will be over and above the regular appropriations being given to the SUCs by the national government in order to sustain the improvement of their respective infrastructures and the upgrading of their curriculum in order to be at par with advanced studies.

Garchalian agreed to the contention that education is the best inheritance that parents and guardians could provide their children because it could not be taken away from them and that they could use their acquired education to advance their living condition.

He cited the national government must also strike a balance in the investments being provided to infrastructure and human development in order to ensure the improvement in the living condition of their families and contribute in efforts to make people productive for the sake of improving economic activities that would spur growth and development in the rural areas.

Gatchalian is optimistic that the next administration will consider heavily investing on human development in order to help move most of the poor people out of the shackles of poverty and translate to better living condition of the people in the countryside.

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