The Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST), an attached agency of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), posted a 99.67% overall budget utilization rate (BUR) of its Fiscal Year 2020 allotment for the programs under Republic Act 10931 or Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.
The 2021 figure is higher than its FYs 2018 and 2019 BURs despite the restrictions imposed to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
The UniFAST Central Office achieved a utilization rate of 99.97 percent of its P3 billion allotment for the Free Higher Education (FHE) in state universities and colleges (SUCs) and CHED-recognized local universities and colleges (LUCs), and Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) Program for new grantees while the CHED Regional Offices attained a 99.39 percent utilization rate.
In comparison, the national government’s disbursement rate for its obligations as of Dec. 1, 2021 stands only at 75.2% based on the latest available Statement of Appropriations, Allotments, Obligations, Disbursements and Balances of the Department of Budget and Management.
Meanwhile, UniFAST is determined to utilize its P44 billion allotment for FY 2021. Under Republic Act No. 11640, the two chambers of Congress extended the validity of the FY 2021 budget to December 31, 2022.
To date, the UniFAST Central Office has achieved a utilization rate of 99.84 percent of its P18.82 billion allotment covering Free Higher Education and new TES grantees.
“CHED and UniFAST have always been compliant with the cash-based budgeting system and I mean not just obligation but actual disbursements. Under the programs of RA 10931, the pandemic did not stop us from continuing our operations in the reimbursements of FHE, as well as the disbursement of TES allowances of our student-grantees,” CHED and UniFAST Board Chairman Prospero “Popoy” De Vera said.
When lawyer Ryan Estevez took the helm of UniFAST as its officer-in-charge, the agency was able to achieve a very high budget utilization rate by strengthening the Secretariat’s human resource base in the central and regional offices, streamlining program processes, adopting ICT applications to facilitate processing and signing of documents, and crafting of policies based on stakeholder consultation and feedback.
Several partnership projects to promote higher education were rolled out with the Land Bank of the Philippines, Department of Labor and Employment – Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, University of the Philippines Population Institute, Film Development Council of the Philippines, Business Mirror, and REX Education Publishing among others.
During the recent CHED Commission En Banc meeting, UniFAST was commended for its accomplishments.
“In upholding the dictum ‘No student shall be left behind’, we continue to judiciously implement the mandates of RA 10931, which is undoubtedly the most transformative, radical and unparalleled piece of legislation that this administration has passed,” Commissioner Aldrin Darilag said.
Commissioner Ronald Adamat attributed this achievement as a result of the diligence, sacrifices, and hard work of the people in CHED-UniFAST, coupled with the cooperation of HEIs who made sure that students, including those in the marginalized sectors, are assisted during these challenging times.