PANTAWID beneficiaries who want to pursue higher education has been urged by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to explore various government tertiary education support programs as these initiatives aim to assist students with their educational expenses.
Beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) can avail themselves of educational assistance programs provided by the Commission on Higher Education (Ched), including scholarships, grant-in-aid, and student loan programs, said DSWD Assistant Secretary for Strategic Communications Romel Lopez, in a press statement on Jan. 15, 2024.
The 4Ps is a conditional cash transfer program of the National Government, which is implemented by the DSWD.
Considered as the country's flagship anti-poverty program, the Pantawid's main aim is to improve the health, nutrition, and education of children aged 0-18 years old from the poorest of the poor families.
As for the educational assistance, Lopez said these programs are designed to improve access to quality education for qualified beneficiaries.
According to Lopez, these programs are extended to eligible poor households, including 4Ps beneficiaries, by the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFast), an attached agency of Ched that unifies and harmonizes government-funded student financial assistance programs.
“Investing in tertiary education for 4Ps beneficiaries is an investment for the future of their respective households and also a step toward achieving the goal of the 4Ps to alleviate poverty through access to free education,” said Lopez, who is also the DSWD spokesperson.
He said 4Ps beneficiaries can pursue free higher education in any state universities and colleges (SUCs) and Ched-recognized local universities and Colleges (LUCs), in line with Republic Act 10931, exempting students from paying tuition and other school fees.
“We urge the beneficiaries, who want to pursue higher education, to coordinate with the nearest universities and colleges in their place of residence to avail of the free tertiary education,” Lopez said.
There are 113 SUCs and 104 LUCs nationwide offering free tertiary education under the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act. Lopez further said 4Ps beneficiaries can also benefit from free technical-vocational education and training provided by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in state-run technical-vocational institutions.
For those opting to enroll in Ched-recognized public and private higher education institutions, 4Ps beneficiaries may avail themselves of the Tertiary Education Subsidy, receiving a subsidy of at least P20,000 per academic year to cover partial school fees and education-related expenses.
Another program called Tulong Dunong Program (TDP) is an option for 4Ps beneficiaries, providing a maximum grant of P15,000 for one academic year. Eligibility for TDP grants is contingent on not receiving any Ched and UniFast education support programs.
Encouraging qualified poor households to take advantage of these programs, Lopez urged 4Ps beneficiaries to apply and access these initiatives for continued higher education with government support.
The DSWD official reiterated that interested beneficiaries can coordinate with Ched-UniFast and the nearest LCUs and SUCs in their locality to learn more about the available programs.
The Pantawid program was officially launched in 2008 during the time of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. It initially covered 330,000 households in the poorest regions of the country. It was later expanded to include more regions, provinces, municipalities and cities.
In April 2019, then President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law Republic Act 11310 (the 4Ps Act) that institutionalized the Pantawid program as a national poverty reduction strategy and human capital investment program. The law also established a National Advisory Council to oversee and coordinate the implementation of the program.
After conducting a reassessment of 1,158,249 households in the country that are under 4Ps in 2023, the DSWD announced last November that it was retaining 761,150 households in the program.
Among the assessed households, 4,242 households were in Level 1 or survival level; 756,898 households in Level 2 or subsistence level; and 339,660 households are in Level 3 or self-sufficient level.
SunStar Cebu reported last November that 29,919 of the 75,331 households in Central Visayas under 4Ps were assessed as self-sufficient.
The agency said it will ony retain households under Levels 1 and 2 in the Pantawid program. Households in Level 3 were scheduled for removal from the program.