December 6, 2023

The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading House Bill 7922 that sought to establish a voucher system for poor and academically qualified students enrolled in private colleges, universities, and technical-vocational institutions with 265 voted in the affirmative, zero negative vote and four abstention.

Once passed into law, the bill will expand the coverage of the tertiary education subsidy (TES) under Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education.

The bill seeks a proportional budgetary allocation for the portable voucher system to support these financially challenged yet academically qualified students so they can opt to study in private tertiary institutions especially in cities and municipalities with existing local and state universities and colleges, as well as state technical-vocational institutions.

The Unified Student Financial Assistance for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Board will determine the eligibility of students applying for these vouchers based on economic and academic qualifications at the start of each academic year.

Current TES beneficiaries shall continue to receive such benefits or subsidies until they complete their postsecondary technical-vocational course or higher education degree program, provided they comply with their program’s residency requirements.

Baguio City Rep. Mark Go, the bill’s author, said the bill is crucial to ensure no student is left behind due to the inadequate capacity of local and state universities and colleges to accept them.

Go added the range of courses or degrees offered in each public HEI limits the options of students in need of government subsidy.

“In the latest data, there were 2,082,868 students enrolled in 249 public HEIs. Data from Commission on Higher Education showed there are more than 1,700 private HEIs in the country and yet, they are serving only about two million students out of the more than four million college students.

Much of these private HEIs can absorb the students, particularly those constrained by geographical factors,” Go said.

The bill is set to be transmitted to the Senate. – Press release