Free tuition law's implementing rules completed

MANILA, Philippines – The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for the free tuition law, set to take effect in 2018, has been completed. 

This was announced by Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairperson Patricia Licuanan on the sidelines of the 2017 Philippine Education Summit on Tuesday, December 5. 

“We have just finished the IRR of the RA (Republic Act) 10931 and it’s ready for signing, so people, expect it at your offices this week,” said Licuanan, addressing Education Secretary Leonor Briones and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director General Guiling Mamondiong.

“Essentially that is, as you know, truly groundbreaking. Starting 2018, all tuition as far as other school fees will be covered, and this will all apply to students in state colleges and universities (SUCs) [and] technical and vocation institutes run by the government… So it’s quite all-encompassing,” added Licuanan. 

The existing admissions policy of SUCs will also stand. A student will have to comply with all requirements of his or her SUC to continuously avail of the free tuition benefits.

The Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act was signed into law earlier this year, which mandates the non-collection of tuition and other fees in all 112 SUCs nationwide. (READ: What's next after SUCs' non-collection of tuition in the 1st semester?

Several issues plague the law, however, including the source of its funds and how implementing agencies can assure the public that it would cater to what is was truly meant for – financing the schooling of less financially able students.  

CHED did not originally include any allocation for RA 10931 in its proposed budget for 2018 as President Rodrigo Duterte was not expected to sign it. His economic managers strongly opposed the bill given the huge funding it needs. 

On Tuesday, Licuanan said the 17th Congress has committed to allocate P51.4 billion for the free tuition law’s first year of implementation.

Data from CHED

With this assurance from Congress, Licuanan said SUCs will be able to stick to their current allocations per student even if more students from private schools will transfer to SUCs.  

“The cost per student should not go down. Because if you suddenly increase your enrollment and you have the same budget, obviously, the cost per student will go down. And so that will affect the quality. So there are certain protections like that because we are very aware of the concerns of the private sector,” said Licuanan. 

Meanwhile, Briones said Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno had suggested to DepEd to hold a series of assesstment tests for senior high school students to help CHED determine how many new enrollees to expect in SUCs. 

"But it does not mean that it’s going to be the standard, that those who will pass the assessment test [are the only ones who will go to college]… No. This will just guide the different schools because they have different physical capacities in classrooms, laboratories," said Briones.

"But this assessment test can be used by the state universities and colleges as one of teh means by which they can assess [prospective students]," she added.

Concerned agencies like CHED, DepEd and TESDA need to sign the IRR first before it will be up for public viewing through the Official Gazette. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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