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A Student’s Guide To The Free Tuition Fee Law

Poverty is major barrier for many students in the Philippines to pursue higher education. While not all who didn’t get the chance to finish tertiary education remained poor, earning a degree will at least give everyone a better shot at life.

In 2010, According to CHED’s data, two out of five high school graduates (or about 40%) did not proceed to college, due to the high cost of tertiary education. Despite costing just a fraction of private college and universities, State Universities and Colleges (SUC) are still inaccessible to the underprivileged population in the country.  

It’s a fact that education is the best way out of poverty, but due to the inaccessibility of higher education to the poorest population of the country, the poor gets stuck in its never ending cycle.

In his effort to bridge this gap between the poor and education, President Rodrigo Duterte signed “The Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act” or Republic Act 10931 on August 3, 2017. The law aims to waive school fees to provide an opportunity for every Filipino to earn a higher education and a degree in SUCs and Local Universities and Colleges (LUC).

As the free tertiary education law finally sees the light of the day, the youth of today will have a chance for a brighter future.  Here’s what you need to know about the new law!

What does this law cover?

This law is an act promoting universal access to quality tertiary education by providing free tuition and other school fees in state and local universities and colleges, as well as state-run technical vocational institutions.

Despite limiting the free tuition fee to SUCs and LUCs, the law also puts into place financial assistance for students who are and will be enrolled in private institutions or for those who will be taking post-secondary degree education. These programs are in a form of subsidy and student loans, which the student needs to apply for first.

How and where to avail free tuition fee?

For students studying in SUCs and LUCs, the tuition fee is automatically waived. However, the students must first meet the basic requirement of the bill as follows:

Who is the free education program for?

  • All Filipino students who are currently enrolled for a bachelor’s degree, certificate degree, or any comparable undergraduate degrees in any SUCs and LUCs.
  • Filipino students who will be enrolled moving forward.  


This law may provide free tuition fee for everyone, but it doesn’t mean it comes easy. To be granted with this privilege, the student must fulfill the basic requirements such as the following:

  • Passed the entrance examination and other admission and retention requirement in their preferred SUC or LUC.
  • The student must have not completed any degree from any higher education institution, public or private.

Non-SUC and LUC education

Apparently, the free tuition only extends to government-funded educational institutions, such as SUCs and  LUCs. However, students who prefer studying in private institutions or are pursuing a secondary undergraduate degree are provided with a different program, which is also mandated by this law.

Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES)

This is another program under the free education law which will provide assistance to all Filipino students who shall enroll in undergraduate post-secondary programs of SUCs, LUCs, private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), and all Technical Vocational Institutions (TVIs) the cost of tertiary education or any part or portion thereof.

What does TES cover?

First of all, TES is made to fund tertiary education of a student. However, the funding from this government agency also can be used for the following purposes:

  • Tuition and other school fees in private HEIs, and private or Local Government Unit (LGU) operated TVIs, which shall be equivalent to the tuition and other school fees of the nearest SUC or state-run TVI in their respective areas.
  • An allowance for books, supplies, transportation and miscellaneous personal expenses, including a reasonable allowance for the documented rental or purchase of a personal computer or laptop, and other related personal expenses.
  • An allowance for room and board costs incurred by the student.
  • For a student with a disability, an allowance for expenses related to the student’s disability, including special services, personal assistance, transportation equipment, and supplies that are reasonably incurred.
  • For a student in a program requiring professional licensure or certification, the one-time cost of obtaining the first professional credentials or qualifications.


Priority shall be given to students who are part of households included in the Listahanan 2.0 ranked according to the estimated per capita household income. Students who are not part of Listahanan 2.0 will be ranked based on their submitted documentation of proof of income.

For your information

Listahanan 2.0 refers to the information management of the Department of Social Welfare and Development that identifies the country’s poorest. Such prioritization, however, shall not apply to Filipino students in areas with no existing SUC or LUC campus.

Student loan program

Another financial assistance that will be administered by UniFAST is the student loans. This program is extended to all Filipino students enrolled or planning to enroll in private HEIs or post-graduate studies. This student loan program offers two types of loans: short- and long-term.

UniFAST’s student loans is tied in to Social Security System’s (SSS) educational loan, where the interest rate is 6% annually.

For short-term loans, the term is up to five years for degree courses while three years for vocational and technical course.

Short term loans
Degree courses5 years term
Vocational and technical courses3 years term

On the other hand, the long-term loan is discretionary, depending on the student borrower’s salary.  For students or parents who don’t have access to bank loans that could finance the entire cost of a semester in private tertiary institutions,  this is a good alternative.
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Sample computation for long term loan

Degree courseBS in Education
Duration of study4 years
Loan amount₱50,000
Interest rate6% per annum
Term36 months
Loan interest incurred₱12,028


Payment of the loan amount shall begin once the beneficiary secures any gainful employment with compensation, remuneration or earnings that reaches the Compulsory Repayment Threshold. Repayment of the loan amount or a percentage thereof will be incorporated in the person’s monthly Social Security System (SSS) or Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) contribution.

For short term loans,  the repayment shall start after 18 months for semestral courses, 15 months for trimestral courses or 14 months and 15 days for quarter term courses from the scheduled last release date or from the date of last release for those who will not avail of the subsequent releases.

Semestral courses 18 months from the release date
Trimestral courses 15 months from the release date
Quarter term courses 14 months and 15 days from the release date

For long term loans, the repayment can be voluntary and can start anytime the loan borrower wants to pay even before finishing the course or having gainful employment. Should the student start paying the loan through his or her income, SSS or GSIS will automatically deduct the student loan repayment together with his or her monthly contribution.

Another means of repaying the loan is for a student borrower to render service such as teaching and research among others.

Employment assistance

Through Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the government will endeavor to prioritize student borrowers in facilitating employment after finishing their higher or technical education.

Universities and colleges offering free tuition

The free tuition fee law that was signed by President Duterte will be in full effect starting school year 2018-2019. This law covers about 112 state universities and colleges, and 78 local universities and colleges nationwide.

The SUCs and LUCs included in the list are the following:

National Capital Region
  • Eulogio 'Amang' Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology

  • Marikina Polytechnic College

  • Philippine Normal University

  • Philippine State College of Aeronautics

  • Polytechnic University of the Philippines

  • Rizal Technological University

  • Technological University of the Philippines

  • University of the Philippines System

  • Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila

  • Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Muntinlupa

  • Region I - Ilocos Region
  • Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University

  • Ilocos Sur Polytechnic State College

  • Mariano Marcos State University

  • North Luzon Philippines State College

  • Pangasinan State University

  • University of Northern Philippines

  • Ilocos Sur Community College

  • University of Eastern Pangasinan

  • Binalatongan Community College

  • Urdaneta City University

  • Cordillera Administrative Region
  • Abra State Institute of Science and Technology

  • Apayao State College

  • Benguet State University

  • Ifugao State University

  • Kalinga State University

  • Mountain Province State University

  • Region III - Central Luzon
  • Aurora State College of Technology

  • Bataan Peninsula State University

  • Bulacan Agricultural State College

  • Bulacan State University

  • Central Luzon State University

  • Don Honorio Ventura Technological State University

  • Nueva Ecija University of Science and Technology

  • Pampanga State Agricultural University

  • Philippine Merchant Marine Academy

  • Ramon Magsaysay Technological University

  • Tarlac College of Agriculture

  • Tarlac State University

  • Mabalacat College

  • Baliuag Polytechnic College

  • Bulacan Polytechnic College

  • City College of Angeles

  • City College of San Fernando, Pampanga

  • Eduardo L. Joson Memorial College

  • Guagua Community College

  • Kolehiyo ng Guiguinto

  • Kolehiyo ng Subic

  • Limay Polytechnic College

  • Norzagaray College

  • Pambayang Dalubhasaan ng Marilao

  • Polytechnic College of Botolan

  • Polytechnic College of the City of Meycauayan

  • Region IV-A - CALABARZON
  • Batangas State University

  • Cavite State University

  • Laguna State Polytechnic University (Laguna State Polytechnic College)

  • Southern Luzon State University

  • University of Rizal System

  • Balian Community College

  • City College of Calamba

  • Colegio de Montalban

  • Colegio ng Lungsod ng Batangas

  • Dalubhasaan ng Lungsod ng Lucena

  • Kolehiyo ng Lungsod ng Lipa

  • Laguna University

  • Pambayang Kolehiyo ng Mauban

  • San Mateo Municipal College

  • Trece Martires City College

  • Antipolo Institute of Technology (AiTech)

  • Tanauan City College (TCC)

  • Pamantasan ng Cabuyao (PNC)

  • Dalubhasaan ng Lungsod ng San Pablo

  • City College of Tagaytay (CCT)

  • Region IV-B - MIMAROPA
  • Marinduque State College

  • Mindoro State College of Agriculture and Technology

  • Occidental Mindoro State College

  • Palawan State University

  • Romblon State University

  • Western Philippines University

  • Baco Community College

  • MIMAROPA City College of Calapan

  • Region V - Bicol Region
  • Bicol University

  • Bicol State College of Applied Sciences and Technology

  • Camarines Norte State College

  • Camarines Sur Polytechnic Colleges

  • Catanduanes State University

  • Central Bicol State University of Agriculture

  • Dr. Emilio B. Espinosa, Sr. Memorial State College of Agriculture and Technology

  • Partido State University

  • Sorsogon State College

  • Community College of Manito

  • Ligao Community College

  • Baao Community College

  • Calabanga Community College

  • Caramoan Community College

  • City College of Naga

  • Daraga Community College

  • Libon Community College

  • Oas Community College

  • Polangui Community College

  • Rapu-Rapu Community College

  • San Jose Community College

  • Sorsogon Community College

  • Donsol Community College (DCC)

  • San Pascual Polytechnic College (SPPC)

  • Aroroy Municipal College (AMC)

  • Governor Mariano E. Villafuerte Community Colleges

  • Region VI - Western Visayas
  • Aklan State University

  • Capiz State University

  • Carlos C. Hilado Memorial State College

  • Guimaras State College

  • Iloilo State College of Fisheries

  • Central Philippines State University

  • Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College

  • Northern Negros State College of Science and Technology

  • University of Antique

  • Iloilo Science and Technology University

  • West Visayas State University

  • Iloilo City Community College (ICCC)

  • Passi City College

  • Libacao College of Science and Technology

  • Bago City College

  • Region VI - Western Visayas
  • Bohol Island State University

  • Cebu Normal University

  • Cebu Technological University

  • Negros Oriental State University

  • Siquijor State College

  • Buenavista Community college

  • Carcar City College

  • Sibonga Community College

  • Trinidad Municipal College

  • Region VIII - Eastern Visayas
  • Eastern Samar State University

  • Eastern Visayas State University

  • Leyte Normal University

  • Naval State University

  • Northwest Samar State University

  • Palompom Polytechnic State University

  • Samar State University

  • Southern Leyte State University

  • University of Eastern Philippines

  • Visayas State University

  • Maasin City College

  • Region IX - Zamboanga Peninsula
  • J.H Cerilles State College

  • Jose Rizal Memorial State University

  • Western Mindanao State University

  • Zamboanga City State Polytechnic College

  • Zamboanga State College of Marine Sciences and Technology

  • Zamboanga del Sur Provincial Government College (ZdSPGC)

  • Region X - Northern Mindanao
  • Bukidnon State University

  • Camiguin Polytechnic State College

  • Central Mindanao University

  • University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines - Cagayan De Oro Campus

  • MSU - Iligan Institute of Technology

  • University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines - Claveria Campus

  • Northwestern Mindanao State College of Science and Technology

  • Pangantucan Bukidnon Community College (PBCC)

  • Magsaysay College

  • Initao College

  • Gov. Alfonso D. Tan College

  • Northern Bukidnon Community College

  • Opol Community College

  • Tagoloan Community College

  • Region XI - Davao Region
  • Compostela Valley State College

  • Davao Del Norte State College

  • Davao Oriental State College of Science and Technology

  • Southern Philippines Agri-Business and Marine and Aquatic School of Technology

  • University of Southern Philippines

  • Kapalong College of Agriculture, Sciences and Technology (KCAST)

  • Governor Generoso College of Arts, Sciences and Technology (GGCAST)

  • Monkayo College of Arts, Sciences and Technology

  • Kolehiyo ng Pantukan (KNP)

  • Region XII - Main SOCCSKSARGEN
  • Cotabato State University

  • Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology

  • Sultan Kudarat State University

  • University of Southern Mindanao

  • Glan Institute of Technology

  • Makilala Insitute of Science and Technology

  • Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao

  • Adiong Memorial Polytechnic State College

  • Basilan State College

  • Mindanao State University

  • MSU-Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography

  • Sulu State College

  • Tawi-Tawi Regional Agricultural College

  • Region XIII - Caraga Administrative Region

    • Agusan del Sur State College of Agriculture and Technology

    • Caraga State University (Northern Mindanao State Institute of Science and Technology)

    • Surigao del Sur State University

    • Surigao State College of Technology

    • Hinatuan Southern College

    Region XII - Main SOCCSKSARGEN
  • Cotabato State University

  • Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology

  • Sultan Kudarat State University

  • University of Southern Mindanao

  • Glan Institute of Technology

  • Makilala Insitute of Science and Technology

  • Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao

  • Adiong Memorial Polytechnic State College

  • Basilan State College

  • Mindanao State University

  • MSU-Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography

  • Sulu State College

  • Tawi-Tawi Regional Agricultural College

  • Implication to the economy

    This law that champions free tertiary education may be unloading a huge burden off the students’ and their parents’ pockets, but in turn, the government will be stretching its budget further to finance it.

    According to this breakthrough legislation, this program which covers about 984,000 SUC students in 2018 is bound to cost the government ₱10.486 billion in tuition alone. The miscellaneous expenses will cost about ₱6 billion in miscellaneous expenses.

    This is indeed a crucial government policy which could eventually liberate a huge number of Filipinos from the chains of poverty. However, it is an additional responsibility of the government to fund this law moving forward. Its long-term benefits greatly outweigh the short-term budgetary challenges, which is what the administration is currently weaving together.

    This is where government initiatives (such as the TRAIN law) become relevant and creates an impact to the economy and people. Certain measures will have to be made in order to generate income for this new law. The country’s resources will be spread thinner, and people may have to pay bigger taxes and other areas of development may take a back seat like infrastructure or less prioritized government initiatives.

    With this new law finally getting rolled out, the education landscape in the Philippines is brighter than ever. It may bring about a lot of short-term budgetary challenges, but its long-term benefit to the country as a whole will ripple through generations. What matters is that this bill has finally been turned into a law – making it one of the biggest victories that our country has achieved.

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