Vargas files Sagip Kolehiyo Act

COLLEGE students who suddenly lost means to continue their education because their parents were laid off due to coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) crisis may soon be able to continue their studies if a bill filed by Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas becomes a law.

House Bill (HB) 7446 or the proposed Sagip Kolehiyo Act, proposes expanding the coverage of the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UNIFAST) Law by including students whose breadwinners were directly or indirectly affected by the pandemic.

Under the bill, college students whose parents or heads or households fall into the following categories will be eligible for a scholarship:

- No work, no pay workers

- Jeepney and tricycle drivers

- Employees who used to be regularly employed but have been laid off due to business closure or retrenchment

- Hospitalized or have died due to COVID-19

- Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who could not find local employment immediately

Each eligible college student will be entitled to a maximum assistance of P50,000 per semester that he or she is enrolled in a college, university or Technical Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA)-accredited institution.

Vargas, a member of the House committee on youth and sports development, said the bill will benefit middle class families whose financial standing has been affected by the pandemic.

“Malaking tulong ito sa mga magulang na nawalan ng trabaho at hirap nang itaguyod ang pag-aaral ng kanilang mga anak sa kolehiyo. Hindi dapat maging hadlang ang krisis na ito para makapagtapos ang mga kabataan ng pag-aaral at maabot ang kanilang pangarap,” he said.

In the bill’s explanatory note, Vargas said the bill will also benefit higher education institutions.

“We can hopefully boost the enrollment of private higher education institutions through the grant of scholarships so they can remain open and provide jobs to educators and non-teaching personnel,” he said.

Vargas said there is a gap for granting aid to students whose families have been hit by the pandemic.

Based on his dialogue with officials from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Vargas said more students are in danger of dropping out for the coming school year due to COVID-19. However, the UNIFAST Law prioritizes poor students for scholarships and other forms of financial assistance.

“Maraming pamilya ang nauubos ang ipon ngayon dahil may magulang na hindi makapagtrabaho o kamag-anak na tinamaan ng COVID-19. Malaking bagay kung maipagpapatuloy ng mga kabataan ang kanilang pag-aaral sa kabila ng krisis,” Vargas said.

With a proposed P5-billion funding per semester, Vargas estimates that 100,000 college students can continue their studies with the passage of HB 7446.