Make sure free education benefits the poor, business group urges

Members of the Philippine business community are urging the government to rethink the free public university tuition policy and redirect its efforts to help ensure that those who will finish college – especially the poor – can land meaningful jobs that will benefit them in the future.

The Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), a non-profit organization and the business community’s response to the need for consensus in education reform, called on the government to reconsider the Senate Bill 1304 or the Free Higher Education for All Act because it might lead to “unintended consequences.”

“The Philippine business community is one with government and especially the Senators in their push for greater access to quality tertiary education,” PBEd said in a statement. “We do, however, share the concern of many of the country’s economic leaders about the proposed policy in its current form,” the organization said. “We worry that it will lead to unintended consequences counter to the spirit of the policy,” it added.

“We believe that only through increased access to quality education will we produce graduates ready for the workforce,” PBEd added. The organization added that instead of the free tuition policy, the government can strengthen the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Law by “adding more funds to a voucher system that covers the total cost of tertiary education for use in both public and private institutions, on priority tech-voc and college programs for national development.”

PBEd also suggested that the government should consider to “leverage state funding to foster competition among HEIs” by setting up quality and outcomes-based measures. Also, the government can “encourage complementarity and partnerships by incentivizing industry, academe, and government to collaborate on the provision of relevant education programs and skills training.”

On March 13, the Senate passed on 3rd and final reading a bill that will provide full tuition subsidy for students in state universities and colleges (SUCs). Senators approved the Senate Bill 1304 which seeks to institutionalize a tuition-free policy in the 112 SUCs nationwide.

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