College students who are depending on free tuition and miscellaneous fees under the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act should not worry of budget cuts amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) said Friday.
In an interview on Dobol B sa News TV, CHED chairperson Prospero De Vera III said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) heeded its request to exempt the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) program fund from the appropriations that will not be released due to the pandemic.
Two weeks ago, the DBM announced that 35% of programmed appropriations under the P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 will no longer be released in an effort to augment budgetary support for the government’s COVID-19 response initiatives.
"Ako'y talagang nagpapasalamat kay Secretary Wendel Avisado dahil ito'y hiniling na ng Komisyon noong isang linggo," De Vera said.
He said this program for free education covers the children of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries and other college students who are also financially-challenged.
Qualified students in cities and municipalities who have no choice but to enroll in private universities, in absence of state colleges and universities in their areas, are also covered by this free tuition program, he added.
The fund for zero-interest student loans will also be spared from the budget-tightening measures of the DBM.
"Sa ngayon ang pondo ay P1 billion," De Vera said.
De Vera added that student beneficiaries of private universities in provinces may expect their stipend soon.
"Yung tertiary education subsidy para sa mga private universities ay dini-disburse na ngayon sa iba't ibang rehiyon. Medyo naantala ng kaunti dahil inabutan ng COVID," he said.
"Na-release na 'yung P3.6 billion of the P9 billion allocation for academic year 2019-2020 kaya ito'y nasa rehiyon na. So 'yung mga TES beneficiaries tanungin ninyo na lang ho 'yung mga private schools ninyo kung paano ninyo makukuha yung inyong TES stipend," he added.
Under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, President Rodrigo Duterte has been authorized to postpone projects and realign the government budget for COVID-19 response efforts. --KBK, GMA News