In August 2017, the Universal Access to Quality Education Act (R.A 10931), primarily authored by then Senator Bam Aquino, was signed into law by President Duterte. This law guarantees that students enrolling in state colleges and universities will be guaranteed free tuition, along with a Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES). The TES is also available to students who enroll in private schools, provided they meet the requirements set by the law. As a result, this law further democratizes access to tertiary education, especially for state universities like UP. However, here are some things that you, dear parents and students, need to know about this law.

Free Tuition is Only for Undergraduate Degrees

Free tuition is only for college

One thing that you, dear parents, need to remember about the law is that the free tuition provided for only covers bachelor’s degree programs. This means that only college students have free tuition, while graduate students, medical students, and law students are not covered. After all, state universities need funding for their operating expenses.

The Law Makes Student Loans Available as Well

The Law also provides for a student loan program

However, even if graduate programs are not covered by free tuition, the law provides for a student loan program, not only for college, but graduate school as well. So, if your child wants to take further studies, he/she can still benefit from this law. Loans will be paid back once your child is gainfully employed, through GSIS/SSS contributions.

The Limits of Free Tuition

Sorry, but free tuition does not cover delays

Dear Iskos and Iskas, before you start celebrating the fact that free tuition is available, please do remember that your free higher education has strings attached. First, delays longer than a year are not covered, since the free tuition only extends to the length of your major, plus one year. Next, second degree students are not covered, since free tuition is meant to help people finish college. Also, just like with any right, free tuition has responsibilities, for you’re responsible for meeting the retention requirements of your college/university. After all, you should waste the people’s money by slacking off in your studies.

A Tertiary Education Subsidy is Also Available

TES is there to fund your other expenses

For other educational expenses, a tertiary education subsidy (TES) is also available, so dear students, no need to worry that much about your dorm, commute, and other expenditures. Also, this subsidy does not cover state and local universities and colleges alone, for Private School students can be covered too. As a result, the TES opens up opportunities for those who wish to enter private colleges, but have no funds.

It is Possible to Opt Out of Free Tuition

Free tuition is an option

Even if the law mainly provides for free tuition, it is possible to opt out of it. This is because the law allows for those who have the capacity to pay to waive their right to free tuition. Also, parents can choose to donate to their kids’ university. I understand that no one would consider saying no to free tuition but if you can contribute to your university by paying tuition, or better, donating, please do so. State Universities, especially UP, need to maintain standards after all. Remember, due to tax money funding state universities, they are still cheaper than private universities.

R.A 10931 is More Than Just Free Tuition

In the end, the most important thing to remember about the Universal Access to Quality Education Act is that it is more than just providing for free tuition. Free tuition is just one way to secure universal access to education, for there are many other options, like the subsidy and taking out a loan, provided for by the act to fulfill its aim, which is to open up college education to all.

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