The long awaited implementing rules and guidelines (IRR) for free higher education have been formally launched by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), seven months after it was signed into a law.

Republic Act 1093, also known as the “Universal Access to Quality Education Act” will allow Filipino students to enroll in state universities and colleges (SUCs) and local universities and colleges (LUCs) for free. The said act will take effect in school year 2018-2019.

Students can avail the free tuition from 112 state universities and colleges (SUCs), 78 local universities and colleges (LUCs) and technical-vocation education and training programs registered under the Technical Education and Skills Development (TESDA).

Aside from the details of how students can be qualified or disqualified from the free tuition fee, the IRR also includes provisions detailing how students can avail of loans and other subsidies to help fund their tertiary education.
According to CHED OIC Prospero De Vera III, in order for students to benefit from the provisions of the law, they should meet the admission and retention requirements of the universities.

Here are the important things that you need to know about the free tuition law:

You can be disqualified from the free tuition fee law.

If you already completed a bachelor’s degree or holding a certificate or diploma for a technical vocational course equivalent to National Certificate Level III or higher, you may not avail of the free tuition fee. Also, failing any public Technical-vocation educational Training (TVET) since the law’s effectivity, being enrolled in TVET program not registered under TESDA or opting out of the free TVET provision will disqualify you from availing the fee tuition.

The free tuition applies to all required classes during the semester.

As long as the classes are outlined as part of the curriculum and essential in obtaining the desired degree, they will be covered under the free tuition fee law. Approved petitioned classes are included, but review or enhancement classes are not. TESDA-registered TVET program are also covered by the law.

Miscellaneous and other school fees are free, too.

Library, computer and lab fees should not be charged to the student. Likewise, school id cards, athletics, admissions, development, guidance services, handbook, entrance, registration, medical and dental services and cultural activities are all free.

Meanwhile, technical-vocational school students will receive the following benefits;
• consumables
• cost of utilities
• cost of facilities, equipment and tools maintenance
• honorarium of trainers
• living allowance
• miscellaneous fees
• National Competency Assessment Fee
• instructional materials allowance
• starter toolkit

Students who are financially capable may opt-out of the mechanism.

Learners who have the financial capacity may volunteer to not take advantage of the free higher education provision, with SUCs, LUCs and TVET providers being required to create a system that would enable students to do so. They should submit a waiver duly notarized by the institution to do so.

Once approved, the decision of the student to opt out will be effective for that particular semester, but can avail the free tuition again in the next semesters.

Meanwhile, a voluntary contribution mechanism will also be implemented to enable students to contribute specific amount to the higher education institution (HEI).

Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) will also be made available for other expenses related to college education.

Subsidies will be made available to help pay for tuition and fees in private institutions. Allowances for books, supplies, transportation, room and board costs and other expenses may be subsidized under TES. A student with disability will also be given a separate set of allowances. Furthermore, for courses which require professional license and certification, financial assistance to fund their application for the first time will also be provided.

Learners must first qualify under the existing admission and retention requirements or other screening and assessment procedures required by the program.

Student Loan Program for Tertiary Education will also be made available.

Under the said law, enrolled students can avail of an education loan through partner banks or similar institutions. The UniFAST board shall be implementing the said loan program.

Php40 billion have been allocated for the implementation of RA 10931 with Php16 billion for free higher education, Php 7 billion for free technical vocational education, Php15.9 billion for tertiary education subsidy, Php1 billion for student loan program and Php 11 million for tertiary education tracking and reporting system.

Source: Rappler –
GMA News Online –