Students benefiting from free tuition must render school services - CHEd

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  • Schools will define services to be rendered by students
  • Only students in first undergraduate degree, and not overstaying, are eligible
  • CHEd to cover entrance exam fees
  • Students can still apply for additional subsidy
  • Law provides for free technical and vocational education

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 14) — Students who avail of free tuition must render services to be determined by their universities, the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) announced Wednesday.

"They are now being paid for by taxpayers' money and it is their responsibility to give back to their community or give back to the nation," CHEd Officer-in-Charge Prospero De Vera III said.

When asked about the type of service that must be rendered, De Vera cited library assistance as an example, but clarified it is up to the schools to decide. He also assured the work would not be tedious or get in the way of academic requirements.

"It's not something that will be overwhelming or people should be afraid of," he said.

The return service system was provided under the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, or Republic Act 10931, which will be implemented this coming school year.

The rules assure Filipino undergraduates attending state universities, colleges, and CHEd-recognized local universities and colleges are waived of tuition and school fees as long as:

  • They pass or meet the admission and retention policies of the institution;
  • They have no previous undergraduate degree; and
  • They are not overstaying.

CHEd will also cover entrance exam fees for applicants to the schools covered by the law.

Students who also qualify as coming from the "poorest of the poor" can also apply for additional subsidy, whether they are studying in public or private schools.

RA 10931 also provides for free technical and vocational education for those who do not wish to go to college.

However, De Vera reminded that although tuition to the schools would be free, admission would still be stringent.

"We are telling them to maintain and be strict about their admission and retention requirements. RA 10131 should not be used as a license to accept everyone that applies because if they do that, you compromise quality," said De Vera.

Nonetheless, he believed the P40 billion allotted for free tuition in the next school year would be a big held for students across the country.

"Because the biggest obstacle to access in higher education -- which is cost -- is now borne by government, there is now no reason why our students coming from poorer households... will not anymore dream they can go to college," he said.

CNN Philippines correspondent Xianne Arcangel contributed to this report.