‘Overstaying’ students won’t get free tuition

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Government scholars will lose their privileges under the free tuition law if they “overstay” or fail to finish their course on time, according to Sen. Ralph Recto.

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Recto on Tuesday said free tertiary education law sets stringent conditions for the enjoyment of free matriculation, such as mandating the student to complete the course during the prescribed period.

“Walang forever na student sa batas na ito [This law is not for those who want to be students forever],” said Recto, co-author of Republic Act (RA) 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education.

The law even sets a “one-strike rule” for public technological-vocational students, the Senate President pro-tempore said.

Under RA 10931, a student in state-run technical vocational institutes (TVIs) loses the privilege if he fails “in any course.”

For students in state universities and colleges (SUCs) and local government-funded local university and colleges (LUCs), they must finish the course “within a year after the period prescribed in their program,” Recto said, quoting the law.

He added that for those taking up a four-year course, there is an “elbow room” for another year to finish it, subject
to situations that can be invoked by the students, and if an extension is granted, conditions will apply.

Recto said students who have already attained a bachelor’s degree or comparable undergraduate degree from any higher education institution, whether public or private, are also barred from the program.

“The same exclusion rule applies to students of state TVIs. Those who have received a certificate or diploma for a tech-voc course equivalent to at least National Certificate III and above can no longer qualify for free tuition,” he added.

Before a student can avail of free tuition, he must pass the test and admission requirements imposed by the government school.

“One must hurdle the qualifying exam, among others in the acceptance checklist. Free tuition should not be loosely interpreted as it is free to all,” Recto said.

Government schools have also requirements to meet before they can receive funds to cover tuition waivers.
They must follow implementing rules and regulations.

There are budgeting, accounting and auditing rules that must be satisfied prior to fund release.

One provision requires schools to establish a learner information system in accordance with the guidelines to be developed by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) in order to facilitate the tracking of students and their performance.

They must also submit relevant information as determined by CHEd on school quality and performance.

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