Gov't scholars given priority under tuition-free policy in SUCs

MANILA, Philippines – State universities and colleges (SUCs) will prioritize beneficiaries of government student financial assistance programs (StuFAPs) in the implementation of the tuition-free policy which has an P8-billion allocation under the 2017 budget.

In a joint memorandum dated April 20, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Budget and Management issued implementing guidelines on the grant of free tuition in SUCs nationwide. 

Based on the memorandum, the tuition-free policy will cover "all Filipino students enrolling in undergraduate course programs in SUCs for the academic year 2017-2018, subject to the prioritization directive of the President and the availability of funds in the Higher Education Support Fund (HESF)."

President Rodrigo Duterte placed the HESF under conditional implementation in December 2016, as he wants to make sure that "financially disadvantaged but academically able students" are given priority.  (READ: Free tuition in state colleges: What the bill says)

Under the scheme, the tuition fees of government StuFAP beneficiaries who get more than P15,000 in benefits will be charged against their StuFAP allocations, while the tuition fees of government StuFAP beneficiaries who get P15,000 or less will be charged against the free tuition allocation of their respective SUCs.

According to the memorandum, the SUCs' free tuition allocation from the P8-billion HESF is based on the estimated tuition income they submitted for the 2017 Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing.

Other students

Continuing students in SUCs are next in line for the tuition-free policy, but only after all government StuFAP beneficiaries have been given slots.

For the remaining available slots, below is the order of priority:

"If there are still funds available, incoming freshmen and returning students who are not receiving more than P15,000 in benefits from any StuFAP will also be eligible for the government's free tuition program in a similar order," the memorandum explained.

Under the tuition-free policy, SUCs will not collect tuition fees from eligible students this upcoming academic year and will instead charge the fees against the HESF.

The fund, however, does not cover miscellaneous and other fees.

All SUCs must assess students' eligibility for the tuition-free policy as early as 4 weeks prior to their usual enrollment period.

In a statement on Monday, April 24, CHED chairperson Patricia Licuanan said CHED is guided by the original intention of lawmakers and the President's directive to prioritize financially disadvantaged but academically able students.

"We will do our best to ensure that the fund goes to as many as possible and to those who need it most," she added.

Below is a copy of the joint CHED-DBM memorandum:

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.