Free college tuition by June 2018

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Higher Education is currently working on the implementing rules and regulations of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Law, which it hopes can be implemented by the next academic year.

Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the bill granting free tuition to students studying in state universities and colleges (SUCs).

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CHED Commissioner Prospero De Vera III said that the commission has ordered its staff, including the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the Department of Budget and Management and the Department of Science and Technology to work the the implementing rules and regulations of the law.

“We hope to finish the implementing rules and regulations very fast so that we can implement this in June 2018… Last night, we gave them marching orders to finish it, hopefully, within the week so that the commission can go over it, sign it within 15 days,” De Vera said in a media briefing at Malacañang.

The new law expands the benefits of students by including the standard miscellaneous fees starting academic year 2018-2019.

Republic Act 10931 also covers free tuition and miscellaneous fees in 111 local government-created universities and colleges nationwide, as well as technical and vocational education under TESDA.

Commission on Higher Education Commissioner Prospero De Vera III discusses Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Law during a press briefing at Malacañang. Presidential Communications/Screengrab © Philstar.com Commission on Higher Education Commissioner Prospero De Vera III discusses Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Law during a press briefing at Malacañang. Presidential Communications/Screengrab

“The estimates that we have for the first year of implementation of the law is about P16.8 billion for the 112 SUCs and the 16 local government-created universities which have been evaluated by the Commission on Higher Education and add to that between three to four billion for technical vocational education under TESDA so the amount that we’re working on for the 2018 budget is a little over P20 billion,” the commissioner said.

The budget for the implementation of the free tuition law can be sourced from current scholarship and financial assistance funds already existing in the budget of several government agencies, according to De Vera.

To prevent the massive transfer of students from private universities to SUCs, the government is looking into implementing stricter admission and retention policies so that SUCs will not adopt open admission.

“Some SUCs, in fact, have already adopted a ‘No transfer’ policy… so there are several state universities that have adopted a no transfer policy from their second, third and fourth year,” De Vera said.

The possible shift of enrollees from private universities to SUCs may happen only for the entering freshmen batch, he said.

He added SUCs may impose a return service policy even though this is not in the law. A return service agreement requires graduates to work in the Philippines for a set number of years after graduation.

For the budget, De Vera said that the government will base the subsidy on a percentage of the regular increase in enrolment of SUCs using data from 2015, the year before the senior high school program was implemented.

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