Exemptions in the free tuition law

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 5) — Filipinos rejoiced on Friday after the President signed the free tuition law, which waived school fees in state and local universities and colleges (SUCs and LUCs).

"As a general rule, tuition fees would be abolished. It would be removed," Senator Win Gatchalian, one of the proponents of the law, told CNN Philippines Friday. "It's available to everyone who passes the entrance exam, you'll no longer pay for tuition fee."

This would affect around 1.6 million students currently enrolled in SUCs and LUCs.

READ: Duterte signs free tuition bill into law

However, the law says the universities "shall create a mechanism to enable students with the financial capacity to pay for their education in the SUC and LUC to voluntarily opt out of the tuition and other school fees subsidy or make a contribution to the school."

Opting out of the program should "come from the heart," Gatchalian said.

 

In addition, the free tuition is only available to first-time college students, or those taking their undergraduate degrees.

This means those who are, or would want to take second degrees or postgraduate studies are not exempted from paying tuition and other fees.

"The spirit of this bill is to give opportunity to students who want to go to college. So ang gusto natin (what we want), is to encourage students to go to college, and dun sa mga nag aaral sa (for those who are in) college, to help them graduate," the senator added.

Another exemption from the free tuition are students "who fail to complete their bachelor's degree or comparable undergraduate degree within a year after the period prescribed in their program."

"We want to be very strict. We want to make sure that the money allocated goes to those who are serious with their studies," Gatchalian added.

Budget and implementation

Senator Bam Aquino, also one of the proponents of the bill, said at best the law will be implemented in the second semester of school year 2017-2018.

"Tapos na yung enrollment ng first sem, but you know in the Senate, we've committed to really look for the budget for this measure," Aquino said in a phone interview Friday.

 

Lawmakers are deliberating on the  P3.767 trillion 2018 budget, which was submitted by the President on July 24. Although the Education department has the highest allocation, no provision was specified for the free tuition law.

READ: DBM: Gov't can't afford free tuition in state colleges

However, Aquino said the Senate is committed to look for the budget for the law.

"This is really the senate priority. Of our laws that we have come out on our first year, this is probably one of the most important ones… We are quite adamant that we'll fund this law, popondohan po natin (we will fund this) to make sure that the students get the benefits that they need," Aquino said.

Gatchalian, meanwhile, said they have a proposal on where to get the budget for the free tuition.

"The budget increase for next year is about P400 billion. What we propose is we take about P25 billion, the first tranche, to that P400 billion. If you divide that, that's only 6 percent of the total allocation for next year," Gatchalian said. "You also have to take into account that the proposed tax reform program will generate about a trillion pesos in the next 5 years."