CHED COMMISSIONER POPOY DE VERA
Better Education for More
Commission on Higher Education OIC, Commissioner Prospero “Popoy” de Vera III, talks about the historic developments in Philippine education
BY JOYCE REYES-AGUILA
PHOTOGRAPOHY BY JAR CONCENGCO
The education journey of many students—including young Filipinos who are off to college with the goal of earning a degree—culminates this month. The new school year may seem like business as usual, except that some families did not have to shell out tuition fees for highereducation scholars. A new piece of legislation known as Republic Act (RA) 10931, or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (UAQTEA), now makes the government responsible for the tuition in state-run universities, colleges, and technical vocational institutions. If learning is a right, then it’s time to do things right.
It is a “historic development,” according to Commissioner Prospero “Popoy” de Vera III, officer-in-charge (OIC) of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). “This has never been tried in our country or, for that matter, in any developing country. We’re entering uncharted waters, so to speak.”
RA 10931 is pillared on four programs: free higher education to students admitted in state universities and colleges (SUCs) and CHEDrecognized local universities and colleges (LUCs), free technical-vocational education and training in state-run technical-vocational institutions (TVIs), tertiary education subsidy (TES) or grants-in-aid, and a national student loan program (SLP). The Unified Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST), along with other government agencies, will implement the law, while CHED is the central agency because the network of public higher education institutions are under the commission.
INVESTING IN THE YOUTH
According to De Vera, who has been with the agency since 2016 and was appointed OIC at the
beginning of the year, this means overseeing P41 billion in funding for quality higher education. This makes him and his office accountable for over 1.3 million young people. “If we invest in them, we give them the opportunity to complete their education and develop the skills needed,” he tells LEAGUE Magazine. “We’ve always looked at population as a problem, or the fact that we have a lot of young people as burden to this country . The impact of this (law) is not just going to be felt during the Duterte administration when students will not have the heavy burden of paying for tuition and miscellaneous fees. It will be felt maybe 10, 20 years from now when you see we have produced a bigger number of more educated, better -trained young people who will be the engines of growth in the country.”
De Vera shares that CHED and some education institutions have warmed up to the recent changes
since last year when President Rodrigo Duterte and the House of Representatives realigned P8.3 billion
in funds to assist at least 900,000 students in 1 12 SUCs with their tuition fees. This means that these
educational facilities already have experience in reimbursing from, and reporting to, the national
government. The only change RA10931 brings is that aside from tuition fees, miscellaneous fees will
be paid for by the government as well. Now CHED has to transfer knowledge to 78 local universities
and colleges created by local governments.
“We have to make sure that SUCs created by local government efficiently implement the law,”
continues De Vera, former vice president for public affairs of the University of the Philippines. “That is
non-negotiable and we have to help them because they don’t have the experience. They have to learn
fast and catch up.”
De Vera recognizes the autonomy of local governments and has met with groups like the Association of Local Universities and Colleges, heads of colleges and universities to build relationships. In these dialogues, he said he has always stressed the role of CHED as they work together to help improve the quality and standards in schools.