The Western Philippines University is one of the 112 state universities and colleges that is implementing Republic Act No. 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act starting school year 2018-2019. The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) was formally launched on March 26, 2018. In effect, all fees shall be shouldered by the government, effectively consolidating into one all government scholarships and grants.

Below are the important points in the IRR:

1. Free tuition for all required classes during the semester. These classes must be part of the curriculum and are essential in obtaining a degree. Approved petitioned classes are covered, too, but review or enhancement classes are not covered.

The free tuition law also covers the fees of Filipino learners enrolled in any TESDA-registered TVET program.

2. Free miscellaneous and other school fees. The law covers payment for fees for the use of libraries, computers and laboratories, school identification card, athletics, admissions, development, guidance services, handbook, entrance, registration, medical and dental services, and cultural activities.

Should you wish to have another copy of your school identification card, library identification card, and student handbook, you will have to pay extra.

3. Affirmative action programs for minorities. The law requires SUCs, LUCs, and TVET program providers to craft programs to make it easier for disadvantaged students to avail of the free tuition law. They may include students who are Lumad, Muslims, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and students from public high schools and depressed areas.

4. Opt-out mechanism. Students with the financial capacity can volunteer to opt out of the free higher education provision. SUCs, LUCs, and TVET providers are therefore required to create a system that would enable students to do so.

Students must decide to opt out of the subsidy during the enrollment period of each semester. They will be required to submit a waiver duly notarized by the institution.

The decision is considered final and irrevocable for that particular semester. Students are allowed to change their decision in the next semesters.

5. Student voluntary contribution mechanism. The law also allows financially-able students to avail of the free higher education provision but also contribute a specific amount to the higher education institution (HEI). SUCs, LUCs, and TVET providers are required to create a proper system so students can make voluntary contributions for their education.

6. Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES). Students and learners may apply to get subsidies to help pay for tuition and fees in private institutions.

Under TES, they may also apply for subsidies to get allowances for books, supplies, transportation, room and board costs, and other expenses. A student with disability will also be given a separate set of allowance. Students whose programs require a professional license or certification will also be given money to fund their application for the first time.

Students and learners, however, must first qualify under the existing admission and retention requirements or other screening and assessment procedures required by the program.

7. Student Loan Program for Tertiary Education. The free tuition law IRR also allows enrolled students to avail of an education loan. The UniFAST Board shall implement the loan program through partner banks or similar institutions.

8. Are there students disqualified from the free tuition law’s benefits?

Yes. You cannot avail of the free tuition and fees in SUCs and LUCs if:

  • You already have a bachelor’s degree or a comparable undergraduate degree from any public or private HEI.
  • You failed to comply with the admission or retention policies of the SUC or LUC, leading to your disqualification to enroll.
  • You failed to complete your degree within a year after the period prescribed for your program.
  • You voluntarily opted out of the free higher education provision.

You also cannot avail of the free higher education provision in TVET programs if:

  • You already have a bachelor’s degree.
  • You already hold a certificate or diploma for a technical-vocational course equivalent to National Certificate Level III or higher.
  • You failed in any public TVET course since the free tuition law’s effectivity.
  • You are enrolled in a TVET program not registered under TESDA.
  • You opted out of the free TVET provision.

Students and learners who are not eligible to avail of the benefits of the free tuition law shall pay for the necessary fees as determined by the SUCs, LUCs, and TVET program providers.

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