The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) have jointly issued the implementing guidelines for the use of the P8-billion Higher Education Support Fund (HESF) under the government’s free tuition program for 2017.
The HESF is included in the 2017 General Appropriations Act and is intended for use by the country’s state universities and colleges (SUCs) for the academic year 2017-2018. President Duterte has ordered the conditional implementation of the free tuition program “to give priority to financially disadvantaged but academically able students.”
According to the joint memorandum, the free tuition program will cover “all Filipino students enrolling in undergraduate course programs in SUCs for the academic year 2017-2018, subject to the prioritization directive of the President and the availability of funds in the HESF.”
SUCs will not collect tuition from students and will instead charge this against the HESF through billing statements for CHED. However, miscellaneous and other fees are not covered by the program, and thus may still be collected from the students.
Beneficiaries of government student financial assistance programs (StuFAPs) will be given priority by their respective SUCs. The tuition fees of those receiving more than P15,000 in benefits will still be charged against their StuFAP allocations, while the tuition fees of student beneficiaries who are getting P15,000 or less will be charged from the SUCs’ free tuition allocation.
After all government StuFAP beneficiaries have been given slots, continuing students in their respective SUCs are next in line for available slots. They will be further prioritized according to the following order, subject to the availability of funding:
1. Graduating students with one semester remaining, regardless of household per capita income;
2. Graduating students with one academic year remaining, regardless of household per capita income;
3. Non-graduating students who belong to a household that is or was a beneficiary of 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program);
4. Non-graduating students who were never part of a household that is or was a beneficiary of 4Ps but is still included in the Listahanan 2.0, ranked according to their estimated per capita household income; and
5. Non-graduating students ranked according to their per capita household income based on submitted documentation(s) for proof of income.
If there are still funds available, incoming freshmen and returning students who are not receiving more than P15,000 in benefits from any StuFAP will also be eligible for the government’s free tuition program in a similar order.
SUC budget and preparations
The budget allocation for each SUC is based on the estimated tuition income they submitted for the 2017 Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing.
The SUCs are required to conduct an assessment on the eligibility of students based on the 4Ps, Listahanan 2.0, and StuFAP beneficiaries. Before the enrolment period, the SUCs should have ranked all assessed students according to the order of priority as stated above.
CHED Chairperson Patricia B. Licuanan gave her assurance that the proper implementation of the program will be carried out. “As we implement Free Tuition 2017, we are being guided by the original intention of the legislators and the president’s directive to prioritize financially disadvantaged but academically able students—we will do our best to ensure that the fund goes to as many as possible and to those who need it most.”