/ 25 September 2023

SENATOR Francis Escudero asked his colleagues to pass Senate Bill 2441 which mandates private Higher Education Institutions to waive entrance examination fees and charges for qualified students.

Escudero said the bill, to be known as the Free College Entrance Act, which he sponsored as chairman of the Committee on Higher, Technical and Vocational Education, will enable thousands of poor yet deserving young Filipinos to get a college degree and have a brighter future.

Section 5 of SB 2441 requires HEIs to waive their college entrance examination fees to graduating high school students if they are natural-born Filipino citizens, belong to the top 10 percent of their graduating class and belong to a family whose combined household income falls below the poverty threshold as defined by the National Economic and Development Authority.

“Thus, only the truly impoverished will be granted the privilege. Some entrance exam fees are equivalent to 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 said.

“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 on the door,” he added.

The senator said the proposed law does not disenfranchise private colleges from collecting fees.

“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 a 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.

The measure also authorizes the Commission on Higher Education to determine and impose appropriate sanctions against non-complying private HEIs.

Aside from Escudero, the measure is authored by Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Mark Villar, Manuel Lapid, Lawrence Go, Raffy Tulfo and Sherwin Gatchalian.