Under Article XIV of the 1987 Constitution, “the state shall protect, and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels, and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all.”
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case for the past few decades due to the lack of resources and infrastructure. Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority in 2018 said that around 3.8 million of the Filipino youth aged 6-24 years old have no access to education.
One major progress in respecting and providing for Filipinos’ right to education is Republic Act 10931 Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Act (or “free tuition fee law”). Under the said law, the government will cover both tuition and miscellaneous fees for students enrolled in state universities and colleges (SUCs), local universities and colleges (LUCs), and technical-vocational education and training programs registered under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority or TESDA.
“I think with the Philippines having the youngest population in Asia, it’s really an opportunity for us to propel ourselves about where we are now, what kind of a midland economy. But, for that to work, we’ll need more investment. Make them smart, make the young people healthy. There’s a massive opportunity to leverage on something good,“ Senator Sonny Angara, one of the principal authors of the Free Tuition Fee Act, said in an interview.
The free tuition fee law will cover the payment of the fees of all required classes for the semester, as well as the miscellaneous and school fees that cover library, computer and laboratory usage, school Ids, and other school services.
The Act also prioritizes the minorities as the law requires SUCs, LUCs, and TVET program providers to come up with programs that will help disadvantaged students avail of their free tuition fees. These minorities include students who are persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, Lumad, Muslims, and students from public high schools and remote areas.
Meanwhile, students who are financially capable can volunteer to opt out of the free tuition fee provision. They could also contribute a specific amount to higher education institutions in order to help other students.
The opt-out option for students can be changed on a semestral basis.
However, those who already obtained a bachelor’s degree or a comparable undergraduate degree can no longer avail of the benefits brought by the free tuition act.