Ched 7 awaiting P519M tuition refund to schools for 82K grantees

THE Commission on Higher Education in Central Visayas (Ched 7) is still waiting for the around P519 million funds for the reimbursement of tuition and other school fees to five state universities and colleges (SUCs) that implemented the free higher education law.

Ched 7 Director Maximo Aljibe said about 82,000 students from five SUCs in the region, namely: Negros Oriental State University, Bohol Island State University, Cebu Normal University, Cebu Technological University and Siquijor State College, have availed themselves of the grant program under the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education (UAQTEA) Act.

Aljibe told SunStar Cebu: “The first semester for the school year 2019-2020 has been paid in full. However, we’re still waiting for the amount for the second semester. We’ve been waiting for it from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), but I think it will be available by July.”

The UAQTEA or Republic Act 10931 aims to promote universal access to quality tertiary education by providing free tuition and other school fees in SUCs, local universities and colleges (LUCs) and state-run technical-vocational institutions and by establishing the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES.)

Aljibe said aside from the 82,000 free higher education student grantees from SUCs, 19,000 other students from LUCs in the region have also benefited from the program.

Moreover, he said the region had nearly 18,000 TES grantees in the last academic year. The TES is a financial support from the government to cover the cost of tertiary education including tuition in private higher education institutions.

However, the government has yet to release the P706 million budget for the program, said Aljibe.

“The problem is that only a fraction of it has been released. For the 17,142 grantees, we need at least P1 billion in subsidy. Region 7 has received only P294 million so far, and all of it was released to the students,” he said.

Aljibe said these grants, however, will continue for the incoming school year given that free higher education is already a law in the country. “It is an assurance from the DBM,” he added.

He said what was temporarily suspended was the Ched Merit Scholarship Program (CMSP), a yearly competitive scholarship given to students based on their grades in the previous school year.

The Full Merit and Half Merit scholarships were open to all student applicants and the money would be used for paying tuition and miscellaneous fees and other education expenses of students.

Ched chairman J. Prospero De Vera III, in a statement on May 22, 2020, said Ched will temporarily suspend the application of the CMSP which has 2,467 new slots for incoming freshman college students for the academic year 2020-2021 “to urgently support and contribute to the government’s efforts in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and to prioritize need-based scholarships rather than merit-based scholarships.”

“With the available funding, we can only cover existing scholars to ensure their continuous education during these difficult times. This temporary suspension is intended to financially support national programs for financially vulnerable families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said. (WBS)