Universal access to quality tertiary education

THE BEST way to fight poverty in this country is through education. Earning a degree will give everyone a better life.

In his second state of the nation address (SONA), President Rodrigo Roa Duterte mentioned the government’s plan to invest more in higher education. This investment in the form of free tuition and other school fees will equip our students, our most valued human resources, to finish in tertiary education.

And in less than one month from his proclamation, the President signed into law free tuition for students enrolled in all state colleges and universities (SUCs) and all recognized local universities and colleges (LUCs) in the country despite of the opposition from the other lawmakers.

Again this is a lasting legacy from the President missed by the other presidents in the past. The new law is an answer to our perennial call for the government to subsidize tuition fees and other fees in public and private schools as a starting step towards a quality tertiary education in the country, free of charge.

Republic Act 10931, otherwise known as the “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act”, is also called the “Free Tuition Law”.

In this Act all Filipino students who are either currently enrolled or shall enroll in bachelor’s degree courses, certificate degree, or any undergraduate degree in any SUC and recognized LUC shall be exempt from paying tuition and other school fees. Provided they have to pass the entrance examination and other admission and retention requirements of the said SUCs or LUCs.

The amount required to implement the free tuition and school fees shall be determined by the respective governing boards of SUCs and LUCs based on the projected number of enrollees for each academic year. Tuition fees refer to fees or school charges for the subjects or course enrolled in by a tertiary education student.

Other school fees refer to fees charged by higher education institutions (HEIs) and technical vocational institutions (TVIs) which cover other necessary costs supportive of instruction, specifically the library fees, computer fees, laboratory fees, ID fees, athletic fees, admission fees, development fees, guidance fees, handbook fees, entrance fees, registration fees, medical and dental fees, cultural fees, and other similar or related fees.

Students ineligible to avail of the free tertiary education in SUCs and LUCs are those who have already attained a bachelor’s degree or undergraduate degree; students who fail to comply with admission and retention policies of SUCs and LUCs; and students who fail to complete their undergraduate degree within a year after period prescribed in their program or course.

Furthermore, all Filipino students currently enrolled or shall enroll in any post-secondary Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions leading to non-degree certificate or diploma programs offered by state-run Technical Vocational Institutions (TVIs) under TESDA shall be exempt from paying tuition and other school fees.

The amount required to implement free tuition and other school fees in state-run TVI shall be determined by the governing board of TESDA based on the projected number of enrollees for each course.

Students ineligible to avail of free tertiary education in state-run TVI are students who have obtained bachelor’s degree as well as those who have received a certificate or diploma in Tech-Voc course equivalent to at least NC III and above; and students who fail in any course enrolled in during the course of the program

Studies showed that only forty percent (40%) of our high school graduates did not proceed to college due to high cost of tertiary education. Hence poverty is the major barrier to our poor but deserving students to enroll in college.

This free tertiary education in SUCs and LUCs, to take effect next school year (SY) 2018-2019, is part of President Duterte’s social development policy to be benefited by more or less 984,000 students in 112 SUCs. Despite of some criticisms, Congress assures of the funding for next year implementation of the Act.

The youths of the land are future drivers of this nation. Giving them access to quality tertiary education will enable them to get a better-paying job which will in turn better living standards for them and their families, or to live a quality life.

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