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Senate approves bill waiving college entrance exam fees for qualified students

MANILA, Philippines — Student leaders at the Mindanao State University have called on school officials to temporarily allow classes to be held remotely after the university ordered a resumption of face-to-face classes starting Monday, more than a week since a deadly bombing incident took place on campus.

The student council of MSU’s main campus in Marawi City said in a statement last week that i t “objects” to the university’s decision to resume in-person learning until December 22 due to fears for students’ safety.

“We express our official dismay regarding the recent release of the memo announcing the resumption of classes, despite the earnest efforts of the Supreme Student Government in presenting data from the survey that reflected the concerns and preferences of the student community,” the student council said.

Philstar.com has reached out to MSU for comment and will update this story with their response.

MSU released a memorandum over the weekend anno uncing that face-to-face classes will resume in coordination with local authorities and security forces.

Signed by MSU President Basari D. Mapupuno, the memorandum said that returning to in-person classes would “ensure the continuity and stability of the academic and professional pursuit of the student body.”

“While acknowledging the anxiety and distress the incident has caused among our constituents, the university assures its community of comprehensive measures being undertaken to create a safe and conducive environment for learning and working,” Mapupuno stated in the memorandum.

Student leaders from MSU’s Supreme Student Government earlier called on their school officials “to transition classes, examinations, and final requirements into an online setup” to ensure the safety of its academic community.

The December 3 bombing incident at the Dimaporo gymnasium — which took the lives of four people and injured 50 others —  “is not the first time students have lost their lives on our premi ses,” the student council said.

“It is imperative that we take swift and decisive action to create an environment where everyone can study, work, and thrive without fear,” the student council added.

Other student organizations have initiated similar petitions addressed to the MSU administration and released statements on Facebook urging the same temporary shift to an online setup.

Members of MSU’s debate varsity organization said that the school must “gain our trust and confidence with a strong sense of accountability of the present and future situation in the campus.”

“You want us back? First, prove that you have the capacity to protect your people,” the MSU debate organization said in a statement last week, stressing that the university does not have a robust emergency response team and a “weak safety and security system.”

Local college student councils in MSU — such as those from the College of Public Affairs, College of Engineering, College of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the College of Education — have also urged their respective administrations to support a temporary return to online classes.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines announced on December 8 that they have arrested one suspect behind the bombing, particularly a person they believe had placed the improvised explosive device at the gymnasium.

The Bangsamoro regional police last week deployed a company-size contingent to secure the MSU campus. — with reports by John Unson

MANILA, Philippines — Qualified stud ents applying for admission to private colleges and universities will no longer be required to pay for entrance exam fees under a new Senate bill greenlighted on final reading.

Senate Bill 2441 — unanimously approved on Monday — waives all college admission fees for college applicants from the top 10% of their graduating batch who fall below the poverty threshold.

To be exempted from paying admission fees in private colleges and universities, graduating high school students must have the following requirements:

Under the proposed law, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) would be able to impose penalties against private higher education institutions (HEIs) that will fail or refuse to comply with the guidelines.

The measure is aimed at benefiting “disadvantaged graduates or graduating students who show potential for academic excellence,” as noted by Sen. Chiz Escudero, chairperson of the Senate higher, technical and vocational education panel.

“This free exam can be a recruiting tool aimed at the best and the brightest,” Escudero added.

Since the implementation of Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act in 2018, there has been a noticeable shift in the distribution of enrollment in private and public colleges and universities, according to CHED.

The ratio used to be 70-30 in favor of private schools, but currently, more than 50% of students flock to SUCs, CHED Chairperson Popoy De Vera said in August.

This is even as private schools outnumber public colleges and universities sevenfold: there are 1,729 private universities compared to 112 SUCs and 121 local colleges and universities, as of 2019 CHED data. — Cristina Chi

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