Free Tuition 2017 Frequently Asked Questions

Posted July 31, 2017 by Management Information Systems Office

This document aims to provide a ready reference to all State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) in the implementation of the Free Tuition 2017 program of the Philippine Government, as stated in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) 2017 and the accompanying Joint Memorandum Circular 2017-1 issued by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

The following are the basic principles that should be observed in implementing the program:

  1. The Special Provision in the GAA 2017 stated clearly that no tuition fees shall be collected from all undergraduate students in SUCs.
  2. The budget ceiling of each SUC is based on the tuition income reported by the respective SUCs in the 2017 Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing (BESF).
  3. The prioritization criteria shall only be used if the budget is insufficient to cover all students. SUCs should maximize this budget and enroll as many students as possible.
  4. SUCs are encouraged to use their regular budget allocations in innovative ways to provide additional financing options to accommodate as many academically-able students as possible.

What is the period covered by Free Tuition 2017?

Free Tuition 2017 covers academic year 2017-2018. Two-thirds of SUCs begin AY17-18 in June while the rest begin in August. The allocations are obligated until a few months after December 2017, to ensure payment for the second semester of AY17-18. Continuation of the free tuition program beyond AY17-18 is not definite (as of May 2017) but it is likely to happen-although not necessarily in the same form-as CHED and Congress are working on a bill that will institutionalize some form of Free Education nationwide.

Is the application process on a first-come, first-served basis?

No. It is a known fact that the poor usually delay the decision to go to school based on many factors that determine their ability to pay for all the expenses related to schooling. SUCs are strongly advised to wait until the end of the enrolment period before finalizing the list of free tuition beneficiaries. Interim enrolment arrangements that consider the welfare of the students are encouraged.

Are we required to accept everybody who wants to avail of free tuition?

Free Tuition 2017 does not interfere with the academic freedom of SUCs. The admission and retention standards of SUCs are still in effect. Processes for various kinds of students already exist in some form in SUCs and these will not be disregarded. However, it should be clear that once the SUC accepts students for enrolment, their tuition shall be free.

What documentary requirements should students submit?

The intention of the JMC is to minimize changes in the usual procedure of the SUCs. As such, the main documentary requirements students should focus on are the usual registration I enrolment documents of the SUCs. The requirements mentioned in the JMC only aim to ensure that the correct students are given priority in the correct order, but all the while knowing that the intention is to provide free tuition to all accepted students.

How will we know which category the students belongs to?

The Scholarship Coordinator of the SUC knows who the recipients of various government StuFAPs are and how much they receive. The Registrar knows who the graduating students are. The local Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) office can help verify if the student is included in the 4Ps or the Listahanan. Aside from this, CHED shall endeavor to provide SUCs with a list that can make this verification process faster.

How will students be prioritized if their circumstances are identical?

If there is budget enough for only one or two more students to benefit from free tuition, the SUCs will exercise its own discretion in selecting the final recipients. As a general rule, however, poorer students will always be prioritized.

What is the correct way to determine who the poorer student is?

StuFAP beneficiaries are given priority in the JMC because the usual application process for StuFAPs (especially Grants-in-Aid programs, which make up majority of StuFAPs) already verify the economic status of the students. Therefore, after prioritizing StuFAP beneficiaries, the general rule indicated in the JMC is to use PER CAPITA income in the prioritization process. This represents the average resources of the family dedicated to the student. Some families may have relatively high TOTAL income, but may have more dependents. Other families may have relatively low TOTAL income, but have less dependents. Using PER CAPITA income ensures that family size is taken into consideration. For Free Tuition 2017, the lower the PER CAPITA income is, the poorer the student. This can normally be determined through the Income Tax Returns of the parents 1 guardians of students, which explicitly list the student as a dependent. Families that are poor enough to be exempted from income taxes are more likely to be part of the 4Ps or the Listahanan; this is precisely the reason why students belonging to these kinds of families are no longer required to provide income documents.

Are two-year certification courses covered by Free Tuition 2017?

Any two-year course and the subjects required by these courses are covered by Free Tuition 2017, especially if it is usually included in the annual tuition income computed by SUCs as reported in the BESF.

Are technical-vocational courses covered by Free Tuition 2017?

TecVoc courses are not covered by Free Tuition 2017. However, qualified students are encouraged to maximize the Ladderized Education Program of CHED.

Does Free Tuition 2017 affect other programs like SUC Leveling, which considers the number of StuFAP beneficiaries in SUCs?

Free Tuition 2017 is not intended to adversely affect any other program because it simply involves transferring the burden of paying tuition fees from the students and their families to the government. Can we innovate payment schemes for our students? Payment schemes wherein students are asked to pay tuition first and then reimbursed after the SUC receives payment from CHED are strongly discouraged, as it contradicts the intention of the program.

Is the Free Tuition 2017 program the same as a Socialized Tuition System?

For the record, there is nothing inherently malevolent about any socialized tuition system. It only aims to provide more support to poorer students. Nonetheless, CHED recognizes that not all SUCs are ready to implement such a sophisticated targeting mechanism. Free Tuition 2017, thus, is in no way a socialized tuition system as commonly understood, simply because it doesn't make any undergraduate student pay for any amount of tuition in any SUC in the country. Free Tuition 2017 is non-discriminatory, which means all students accepted and enrolled in SUCs, regardless of economic status, shall not pay any tuition.

For further inquiries, please email SUCs are also encouraged to coordinate closely with CHED through this email address as far as their plans, strategies, and challenges In Implementing Free Tuition 2017 are concerned. Our aim is to build a support group that shares possible solutions to unique concerns.