The national government’s free tuition program is drawing back a significant number of college dropouts from poor families into the educational system, according to officials of Palawan’s two state universities.
The national government has rolled out this year a new program through the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to bankroll free tuition fees in all of the country’s state schools, including the two universities located in Palawan, the Palawan State University (PSU) and the Western Philippines University (WPU).
Officials from these institutions, in separate interviews, observed that the program has began to draw back more students availing of heavily subsidized education.
“Marami tayong (student) returnees kasi dahil sa free tuition. ‘Yung mga students na natigil sa pag-aaral they come back. For now we’re eyeing for 10,000 or more enrollees,” Dr. Grace Abrina, Director of Student Affairs of PSU, said.
Abrina observed that since the PSU enrollment calendar began on May 22, 2017, college enrollment has peaked to 5,000 students, a big part of which can benefit from the program.
She also admitted that the free tuition fee program gained a wide number of enrollees for this school year, given that the number continuously diminished on the previous years since K-12 program has been implemented in 2012.
Abrina said that the CHED has set aside a P74M budget for PSU and P32M for WPU to cover the tuition subsidy cost.
“Ang P74M budget na ‘yan is allocated for PSU Main Campus alone. Our external campuses, they have our provincial office naman for scholarship programs. Kung bibilangin natin, that P74M budget could cater around 8,304 students. So that’s a big number,” Abrina explained.
Marilyn Miraflores, Head of Student Affairs at the WPU, said that since their enrollment period started on May 29, 2017, WPU already had 1,681 enrolled students “but this number is expected to roll up in the next couple of days.”
The CHED has however designed the program to benefit primarily graduating students and those who belong to indigenous peoples (IP) groups.
Mark Philip M. Dela Cruz, Executive Head Officer of the Provincial Scholarship Program of Palawan, told Palawan News that they are refocusing their own scholarship program in light of the national government’s free tuition policy.
He said that the average number of scholars annually listed on their program is around 25,000. He added that this number could scale down in face of CHED’s new program.
“Focus kami sa NCCRD campuses ng probinsiya. Kasi ang mga students naman ng PSU Main Campus at WPU Main Campus ay siguradong nabibigyan ng libreng tuition. So kami naman, dun na kami sa NCCRDs,” Dela Cruz said.
He also encouraged Palaweño students, especially those who couldn’t benefit from the free tuition fee program, to submit an application for scholarship to their office or through the help of their municipal affiliations.
“Medyo humigpit lang tayo ng konti. Dagdag requirements para rin sa kanila ito. Ngayon, you have to provide us certificate of school registration, certificate of residency, copy of grades siyempre, saka letter of intent ng mga magulang,” he said.