During the Rise for Education Alliance’s Gathering for Education Forum earlier this week, Senator Win Gatchalian clarified that the “opt-out” provision of RA 10931, otherwise known as the Universal Access to Tertiary Education Act, is purely voluntarily, and that students should not be forced to opt-out of the full tuition and other fees subsidy for any reason.
Section 4 of RA 10931 states: “All [state and local universities and colleges] shall create a mechanism to enable students with the financial capacity to pay for their education in the SUCs and LUCs to voluntarily opt out of the tuition and other school fees subsidy or make a contribution to the school.”
Gatchalian explained that the data show that approximately 90 percent of students enrolled in SUCs are considered poor or near poor, while only 10% of students belong to the middle and upper classes. In order to identify and validate the 10%, the government would have to conduct a survey which will incur big administrative costs.
“The administrative costs to look for the 10% would be greater than the cost of the subsidy provided to the 10% of students from SUCs who hail from the middle and upper classes. That’s why we added the opt-out clause, to allow the students who really have the capacity to pay to voluntarily forgo the free tuition benefits if they so choose,” said Gatchalian, the vice-chair of the Senate Education Committee.
Despite this, student leaders from the University of the Philippines Diliman present at the forum reported that students in one of their colleges were allegedly being forced to opt-out from the free tuition scheme due to their economic status.
“No one has the right to force, bully, or harass any student in any SUC into opting-out. Those are considered unlawful actions and must not be tolerated,” Gatchalian said.
The Senator also called on students to be vigilant regarding other issues surrounding the implementation of the RA 10931.
“Let’s be vigilante in the execution of the Free Higher Education Law, so we can be assured that the law is being implemented equally across all SUCs, LUCs, and technical-vocational institutions, and to make sure there is no corruption and misinterpretation in the process.” Gatchalian said.