MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into a law a bill granting free tuition and other fees for students in state universities and colleges (SUCs), as well as local universities and colleges (LUCs) and technical-vocational institutions (TVIs).
According to Republic Act 10931 or the “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act”, the following are eligible for free tuition and other school fees:
1. Students in SUCs and LUCs, provided that they passed the entrance examination and other admission and retention requirements
- SUCs refer to public higher education institutions established by national laws which are financed and maintained by the national government and are governed by their respective independent boards of trustees or regents.
- LUCs refer to Commission on Higher Education-accredited public higher education institutions established by local government units through an enabling ordinance financially supported by the LGU concerned.
2. Students in state-run technical-vocational institutions (TVIs) under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). TVIs provide non-degree programs aimed at preparing technicians, paraprofessionals and other categories of middle-level workers.
The law also provides a mechanism for students with financial capacity who want to opt out of the subsidy program for tuition and other fees. SUCs, LUCs, and state-run TVIs shall report the tuition payments and contributions collected to CHED and TESDA, respectively.
Meanwhile the following are ineligible to avail of the free tertiary education:
1. In SUCs and LUCs:
- Students who have already attained a bachelor’s degree or comparable undergraduate degree from ay higher education institution whether public or private.
- Students who fail to comply with the admission and retention policies of the SUC or LUC.
- Students who fail to complete their bachelor’s degree or comparable undergraduate degree within a year after the period prescribed in their program.
2. In state-run TVIs:
- Students who have obtained a bachelor’s degree as well as those who have received a certificate or diploma for a technical-vocational course equivalent to at least National Certificate III and above.
- Students who fail in any course enrolled in during the course of the program.
The law states that students ineligible of the free tertiary education shall be charged the tuition and other school fees, as determined by the respective boards of the SUCs and LUCs, and in the case of state-run TVIs, to be determined by the TESDA.
SUPPORTING THE COST OF TERTIARY EDUCATION
The law also provides support even for students who are studying in private higher education institutions.
Section 7 of the law states that a tertiary education subsidy shall be established for Filipino students enrolled or who shall enroll in undergraduate post-secondary programs of SUCs, LUCs, private higher education institutions, and private and state-run technical-vocational institutions.
The tertiary education subsidy may cover the following:
1. Tuition and other school fees in private HEIs and private or LGU-operated TVIs which shall be equivalent to the tuition and other school fees of the nearest SUC or state-run TVI in their respective areas.
2. Allowance for books, supplies, transportation and miscellaneous personal expenses, including a reasonable allowance for documented rental or purchase of personal computer or laptop and other education-related expenses.
3. Allowance for room and board costs incurred by the student
Allowance for expenses related to the disability of a disabled student.
4. One-time cost of obtaining the first professional credentials or qualifications.
According to the law, the subsidy shall be administered by the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) board.
UniFAST refers to the harmonized state-run and administered system of higher education and technical-vocational scholarships, grants-in-aid student loans, and other modalities of student financial assistance program under Republic Act No. 10687.
Priority shall be given to students who are part of households included in the Listahanan 2.0 ranked according to the estimated per capita household income.
Students who are not part of Listahanan 2.0 will be ranked based on their submitted documentation of proof of income.
Such prioritization, however, shall not apply to Filipino students in areas with no existing SUC or LUC campus.
Listahanan 2.0 refers to the information management of the Department of Social Welfare and Development that identifies the countries poorest.
STUDENT LOAN PROGRAM
The law also provides for the creation of a student loan program for tertiary education which shall be administered by the UniFAST Board. The amount necessary to fund the program shall be included in the budget of CHED and TESDA.
Those who availed of the loan for their undergraduate degrees may still avail of another cycle of student loan for their pursuit of graduate studies, including medicine and law only after they have fully paid the previously availed loan.
Those who did not avail of the loan program for their undergraduate studies may avail of it to pursue graduate studies, including medicine and law.
Those who did not avail of the loan for their undergraduate studies may avail of the loan program for their review expenses for licensure examinations administered by the Professional Regulation Commission.
Repayment of the loan amount or a percentage thereof will be incorporated in the person’s monthly Social Security System (SSS) or Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) contribution. The schedule of the repayment and the interest rates shall be formulated by the UniFAST Board.
Payment of the loan amount shall begin “once the beneficiary secures any gainful employment with compensation, remuneration or earnings that reaches the Compulsory Repayment Threshold.
Duterte’s economic team had wanted him to veto the law, citing the costs providing free education in state-run institutions will entail.
However, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who announced Duterte’s decision to sign the bill into a law, said “free tertiary education in SUCs is a very strong pillar or cornerstone of the President’s social development policy.”
“He weighed everything and came to the conclusion that the long-term benefits that will be derived from the well-developed tertiary education on the part of the citizenry will definitely outweigh any short-term budgetary challenges,” Guevarra added.