Press Release
March 13, 2017

Recto: Explanation of Vote on Affordable College Education
SB No. 1304 Affordable Higher Education for All Act
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto
13 March 2017

Mr. President, my dear colleagues:

The costs this bill would entail are not unrecoverable expenses. They are investments with high returns.

Some will only see the billions in this measure and warn of the deficit they might incur. But let us see them for what they really are - as means to realize dreams.

A nation's progress depends on the quality of its human capital. Education dictates whether it prospers or it remains poor.

But building the country's talent pool is not the responsibility of families alone. Government has to do and give its share.

As I've said, college education has a good rate of return, better than what banks can offer. In fact, the best form of investment is to educate oneself.

In one study, college education posts a 15 percent return, which shows that the best investment certificate is a college diploma.

A college diploma is a ticket out of poverty. But sadly, there are many students who cannot make this trip on their own. Many poor and middle class youth do not have the financial self-propulsion.

Overall, 40 percent of high school graduates do not proceed to college. And for those who managed to enter college campus as freshmen, only six out of 10 will march up the stage to claim their diplomas.

It is a marathon with a high mortality rate, and oftentimes not because a student does not have the head for it--he even has the heart--but because he does not have the money.

This is the truth: More are waylaid by financial exhaustion than by intellectual burnout.

Madalas kong sabihin na ang diploma ay hindi lang katibayan ng pagtatapos, ito rin ay resibo ng gastos.

Kaya ang panukalang ito ay naglalayong obligahin ang pamahalaan na tumulong sa gastos.

This bill will benefit poor, near-poor, the middle class. But if a rising tide raises all ships, including the rich, then it should not be used as an argument against this measure.

There are, however, guidelines that will bar the affluent from getting a free lunch.

While government will contribute in his education, the biggest equity will be borne by the student himself. Free tuition, and other aids, are not an entitlement without condition.

First, a student must qualify for college admission. That is the starting hurdle he must pass. Of course, he must pass the tests.

This bill does not override admission protocols. Thus, it is a merit-based aid. And one that can be maintained by merit alone.

Mr. President, my dear colleagues:

Because they go against convention, brave social legislations are birthed under hard circumstances. Thirty years ago there was no universal high school education.

The law making it free and mandatory only came in 1988. The free public high school was first implemented during the ??1988 -1989 schoolyear. So this bill is but a natural progression on how our education system matures and develops.

Mr. President, at this point, allow me to point out some of the amendments - but I call them improvements - that were included on the bill that was presented to the floor.

The question on the role of private higher education institutions cropped up. In many areas, the only college is privately-owned.

The fear is that if we offer free public college tuition, students in private would flock to SUCs. It is a mass migration that will weaken the tertiary education system, or worse, lead to their mass extinction.

The solution seen was to expand and strengthen the programs authorized in the UniFAST Law, and make them available to HEIs.

It is GASTPE for college, a public-private partnership, in which the contribution of private colleges will be even bigger than of the government's.

Private colleges can accommodate more students, and if the quality of instruction they offer is superior at fraction of the cost in an SUC everybody wins - them, the government, and above all, the student.

We should always remember that private colleges and SUCs are not competitors, but are partners, in the important work of educating our young.

So this bill goes beyond tuition waivers and tuition aid. There is a section here which lays out the many types of educational assistance to be given or received.

Taking into account the complex structure of our HEI system, and accepting the fact that our students are not homogenous, we have broadened the options, and widened the modalities.

This is not a straitjacketed one-type of assistance only.

Thank you, Mr. President.

I vote yes to this bill.

News Latest News Feed