No Student Allowance Yet? CHEd Answers Controversial FHE Issue

The Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) has finally answered a controversial issue relative to the Free Higher Education Program (FHE).

In a press release dated September 18, 2020, CHEd Chairman Prospero De Vera III said State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) and Local Universities and Colleges (LUCs) are not getting paid for noncompliance with government rules.

SUCs and LUCs "that failed to comply with requirements of the Commission on Higher Education and the Unified Student Financial Assistance System (UniFAST) cannot receive their reimbursement of tuition and miscellaneous fees under the Free Higher Education (FHE) program."

This was stated by De Vera in response to the questions raised by several members of the House Representatives during the budget deliberation on CHEd's proposed 2021 budget.

Legislators led by Alliance of Concerned (ACT-Teachers) representative France Castro claimed that some SUCs waited for six to eight months before they got the funding for the FHE program, which prompted some schools to lay off some personnel.

More than 40 SUCs and LUCs did not receive their reimbursement of tuition and miscellaneous fees for the 2nd semester of AY 2019-2020 even after the end of the school year in July 2020 due to late submission of documents or noncompliance with billing requirements.

A total of 12 SUCs and LUCs still have noncompliance issues until now and cannot be reimbursed even if funds are downloaded by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

"The Commission has already identified the noncompliant SUCs because our records show that only those with compliance issues have not been paid with whatever funds that have been downloaded by DBM to the Commission. I have also received reports that some SUCs have been telling their faculty that CHEd is not processing the papers. Some SUC presidents have also raised the issue publicly where upon investigation, their SUCs have not complied with the requirements," the CHEd and UniFAST Chairman said.

On record, CHED-UniFAST has fully paid the claims of 112 SUCs 103 LUCs for the 1st semester of AY 2019-2020 and paid 80% (80 SUCs/84 LUCs) of the total 215 public Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) for the 2nd semester this year.

Some students of the Davao Oriental State University (DOrSU) have not received their allowances since the 1st semester of AY 2019-2020, contrary to what the CHEd claimed.

CHEd released a list of noncompliant SUCs and LUCs under the FHE program being implemented under the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (Republic Act 10931) that are yet to be paid for their billings:

  • Mindanao State University
  • Nueva Vizcaya State University
  • University of Southern Mindanao
  • San Pascual Polytechnic College
  • Taguig City University
  • Maasin City College
  • Makilala Institute of Science and Technology
  • Sulu State College
  • Eulogio "Amang" Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology
  • Technological University of the Philippines
  • Gov. Alfonso D. Tan College
  • San Jose Community College

According to CHEd, the billings of the remaining 18 SUCs and 13 LUCs were already processed and ready for payment upon the issuance of the Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA) from DBM.

Once DBM releases the NCA of P7 billion, all claims of compliant SUCs/LUCs will be immediately paid except for the noncompliant HEIs that will not get reimbursed until they submit all requirements and comply with the government's auditing and accounting rules.

"CHEd has the responsibility to protect the utilization of public funds. If some public universities do not comply with government requirements, or worse, claim reimbursement of fees not allowed under RA 10931, then CHEd will not download the funds to them," De Vera said.

"It is unfair to criticize the hardworking men and women of CHEd and UniFAST who are doing their best to disburse the money using a skeletal workforce during the pandemic, especially if these claims are being made by SUC/LUC administrators who are remiss in their duty to comply with government rules," he added.

Since 2019, many students complained of not receiving their allowances. Some parents also vented out their frustrations during meetings with UniFAST personnel and school staff. Several accomodation/boarding house owners likewise raised the issue of not getting paid for students' rent for months. Some dismayed students also expressed intention to ask for help from famous media personality Raffy Tulfo to raise the controversial issue involving CHEd.

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