SEN. Chiz Escudero prodded Congress over the weekend to frontload timely passage of Senate Bill No. 2441 mandating private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to waive entrance examination fees and charges for qualified students applying for college admission.
The Escudero bill was among those the senator sponsored at the floor on September 19 (Tuesday) as chairman of the Committee on Higher, Technical and Vocational Education.
To be known as the “Free College Entrance Act,” the measure will enable thousands of poor yet deserving young Filipinos the opportunity to get a college degree and have a brighter future, Escudero said.
The chairman of the Senate Committee on Higher, Technical and Vocational Education said Section 5 of SB 2441 requires HEIs to waive their college entrance examination fees to graduating high school students with the following qualifications:
(a) Must be a natural-born Filipino citizen;
(b) Must belong to the top 10 percent of his or her graduating class;
(c) Must belong to a family whose combined household income falls below the poverty threshold as defined by the National Economic and Development Authority.
Once SB 2441 is enacted into law, students belonging to a family whose income cannot afford “in a sustained manner to provide for their minimum basic needs of food, health, education, housing and other essential amenities of life duly certified as such by the Department of Social Welfare and Development [DSWD]” will also be qualified to a free entrance exam.
“Thus, only the truly impoverished will be granted the privilege,” the bill provides.
Escudero noted that “some entrance exam fees are equivalent to a minimum day’s wage that taking the former will mean meals foregone. No family should starve for a day because food money has been traded for examination fee,” Escudero stressed. “For the poor, this is not a free ride for the whole college experience. It does not swing the school portals open. It merely allows them a foot in the door,” he added.
The bill, he stressed, does not disenfranchise private colleges from collecting fees. “In short this is not a blanket waiver of fees. It only exempts a small subset of fee-exempt entrance takers, as enumerated in Section 5,” Escudero said.
“As it would only apply to small segment exam takers, income forgone can be recouped by payments made by other takers. And when qualified takers do proceed to enroll in the school, then the school’s small investment will yield a higher return through tuition paid. It can be seen as a marketing device that can lure potential enrollees,” he added.
Image credits: Bibo Nueva España/Senate PRIB