Apr 18, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

The Philippines Senate unanimously passed the Affordable Higher Education for All Act, which will give free tuition to students at all state universities and colleges. 

How will it work?  The Commission on Higher Education (CHED), will administer an initial $298 million subsidy, and will offer financial assistance to students in private and vocational schools. 

Who’s qualified?  For students to earn a full tuition subsidy the act says that Filipino students currently enrolled, or who will enroll in state universities and colleges (SUCs), must study for a bachelor’s degree, a certificate degree, or any comparable degree.

Students who can afford their education without the subsidy will be encouraged to “opt out” of the subsidy, or to donate to the school.  

On Rappler.com, Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, one of the bill’s architects, said, “We saw that this passage of the Affordable Higher Education for All Act is a clear message from the Senate to every Filipino that we prioritize education, that we choose to invest, first and foremost, in our students, our children in the next generation. And indeed... this investment as a country is the best that we can undertake.”

While the new legislation is great news for some students, it has others a bit nervous.  Those studying at private schools fear that many of their peers will flock to SUCs.  To combat this fear, the Act has an amendment to expand and strengthen programs in for the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST). 

Other critics fear that despite the Act’s good intentions, poorer students will continue to be left behind.  Why?  The Act does not override admissions protocols, and poorer students generally have less opportunity than their wealthier counterparts to prepare for university acceptance.  The free tuition also fails to accommodate students who cannot afford living expenses while studying.

For qualifying Filipino students, the news is positive. 

Learn more about studying in the Philippines

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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