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Students of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (Photo: PUP)

98% of Filipinos support free tuition in SUCs – Gatchalian

by Carl Santos

AT LEAST 98% of Filipinos support free tuition in state universities and colleges (SUCs), according to a Pulse Asia survey commissioned by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.

Gatchalian, vice chairperson of the Senate committee on higher, technical, and vocational education, released the results of the September 10–14 survey on Tuesday.

The poll showed wide support across all economic classes: 99% in Classes ABC, 97% in Class D, and 100% in Class E, as well as across geographical areas such as the National Capital Region at 98%, Balance Luzon at 96%, Visayas at 99%, and Mindanao at 100%. 

More than half (51%) of the 1,200 adult respondents said that free tuition leads to more graduates. 

Nearly half of the 1% who oppose free tuition expressed worries about the quality of education, while another 47% brought up the issue of underfunding in public universities.

Gatchalian said that because of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (Republic Act 10931) or the free higher education law, youth participation in higher education has increased. 

From 2018 to 2022, when the free higher education law was already in effect, the progression rate from senior high school to college increased to an average of 81%. 

For Academic Years (AY) 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, the progression rates from high school to college stood at 54% and 62%, respectively.

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, however, has called for reforms to the free tuition system, which he described as ”unwieldy, inefficient, and wasteful.”

He cited the ”rising dropout rate.”

“The elements of my proposal are the following: first, focus on strengthening the K-12 program; second, filter, through a nationwide test, those who should be entitled to free education,” the Cabinet official said last month. 

“Third, allow those who passed the nationwide exam and are entitled to ‘free’ education to use their entitlement (a four-year voucher) to enter or reject their assigned state university [or] choose an accredited private university; and [lastly] reduce the number of existing SUCs over time through mergers,” he said. 

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