IN TIME for midterm examinations, the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) issued a memorandum ordering colleges, universities, and vocational schools to allow students with delinquent accounts to take their exams.

Kabataan Representative Raymond "Mong" Palatino earlier filed House Bill 6799 to outlaw the “No permit, No exam” policy in the wake of disasters caused by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng last year.

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“Last week, they attended the hearing and Ched's proposal was good – instead of a house bill, which has a long process, they would circulate a Ched memo instead,” he said.

Ched Memorandum Order (CMO) 02 series of 2010 was circulated last Friday, January 22. It directed higher education institutions (HEI) to be flexible in the implementation of the “no permit, no exam” policy, which was earlier criticized by various student groups.

The specific guidelines of the memo said that students may pass a promissory note, depending on the discretion of the school, guaranteed by the parents.

While the student may take the exam despite unsettled balance, the school has the right to withhold the clearance of a student until all balance is settled.

Dr. Emmanuel Angeles, chairman of Ched, said the memorandum is also in accordance with Republic Act 7722 otherwise known as the Higher Education Act of 1994.

“This is also in accordance with the pertinent provision of the 1987 Constitution and RA 7722 and for the purpose of ensuring the accessibility and affordability of quality higher education, and also in view of the unabated economic crisis brought about by circumstances worldwide as well as the recent calamities that the country has faced in the last year,” Angeles stated in his order.

“In view of the ongoing premises, all concerned HEI’s are hereby requested to extend all possible assistance to students with outstanding balances in tuition and other fees due to financial difficulties. They shall extend utmost flexibility in the implementation of the no permit, no exam policy they are adopting, if any, and any such policies that prohibit students from taking their periodic or final exams due to unpaid school accounts,” he added.

Representative Palatino lauded Ched for coming with a “pro-poor and pro-student” memorandum, saying it was in response to the HB 6799 or the "Anti-No-Permit, No-Exam Policy" filed by the group last September 10, 2009.

Ched officials were invited in a committee hearing of the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education (CHTE) discussing the bill last week in which they subsequently agreed to release a memorandum immediately address.

“We are very pleased that Ched decided to immediately act on this matter. This is a significant development for the best interest of our students, especially in light of high cost of tuition and other fees amidst an economic crisis,” Palatino said.

The issuance of the memo is very timely because schools are now in their midterm examination period.

“We are urging all 1,781 HEIs to comply with the memo. This would especially benefit the 88 percent of our students who are studying in private schools,” said Palatino.

He called on the students to report non-compliance of school administrations to the Ched directive. “We also extend our aid to Ched in the monitoring of reports and complaints from students regarding this matter.”

But the lawmaker clarified there are no sanctions for schools that will not be cooperating as of the moment.

He also said the memo is not encouraging students to leave their tuitions unpaid but instead just avoiding scenarios in which honors students could not take an exam just because he could not pay for it.

“It is in the student's interest to pay for his tuition because he wants to finish college,” Palatino said. (AH/Angela Casauay/Sunnex)