Date Published:
Mar 01, 2017
Policy Notes
Focus Area(s):
PN 2017-03

The proposed policy to provide free tuition for students enrolled in state universities and colleges (SUCs) looks appealing. The question, however, is whether it can better implement the constitutional mandate of the state to protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education compared to other alternatives. This Policy Note finds that free tuition in SUCs can do more harm than good for a number of reasons. Among others, it is antipoor. Because free tuition involves only partial financing and tuition fee is just a fraction of the total cost of higher education, those who will likely benefit from it are students from richer households as they have the resources to finance the rest. Free tuition fee in SUCs can also tilt the enrollment in favor of them because of the cheaper cost of education. The budget that will be allocated to implement this policy will also likely crowd out investments for infrastructure, agriculture, K to 12, and other high-priority propoor development programs. In lieu of the free tuition in SUCs, this Policy Note recommends fully funding the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education, which has ample avenues for democratizing access to tertiary education through various student financial assistance programs (grants-in-aid, scholarships, and student loans) and provides full financing of tertiary education.


This publication has been cited 19 times

In the Media
  1. Angara, Edgardo. 2017. Free college education: Supplying developed countries with skilled manpower?. Manila Bulletin.
  2. Bernardo, Romeo. 2018. ‘Never waste a good crisis’. BusinessWorld.
  3. Bernardo, Romeo. 2017. Taxes, free tuition, and a digital nation. BusinessWorld.
  4. Bondoc, Jairus. 2018. State colleges musn’t become diploma mills. Philippine Star.
  5. Cruz, Tonyo. 2017. Diliman is lit — for free education. Manila Bulletin.
  6. Dumlao-Abadilla, Doris. 2017. More scholarships for poor better than free tuition—PIDS. Philippine Daily Inquirer.
  7. Dumlao-Abadilla, Doris. 2017. Duterte asked to veto free state education bill. Philippine Daily Inquirer.
  8. Galang, Jose. 2017. ANALYSIS: Infrastructure becomes obsolete, education is forever. ABS-CBN.
  9. Legarda, Loren. 2017. Legarda: Free Tertiary Education, Our Commitment to the People. Senate of the Philippines.
  10. Malaya Business Insight. 2017. PIDS says free tuition is anti-poor. Malaya Business Insight.
  11. Orbeta, Aniceto Jr. 2017. Mr President, before signing the law on free college tuition, please read this.
  12. Ordinario, Cai. 2017. Economic managers back UniFAST mode on grant of free tuition to college students. Business Mirror.
  13. Ordinario, Cai. 2017. Freebies’ could cause PHL debt to balloon. BusinessMirror.
  14. Ordinario, Cai. 2017. Free tuition in SUCs to benefit mostly affluent students—PIDS. BusinessMirror.
  15. Sabal, Jhon Louie. 2019. Sabal: Is there a future for the Filipino Youth?. SunStar Cagayan de Oro.
  16. The Daily Tribune. 2017. Train now a necessity. The Daily Tribune.
  17. Valencia, Czeriza, and Janvic Mateo. 2017. Economists reject full tuition subsidy for SUCs. Philippine Star.
  18. Wall Street Journal. 2019. Economists reject full tuition subsidy for SUCs. Wall Street Journal.
  19. Yang, Angelina. 2017. Free tuition: Will it really benefit poor students? . Philippine Daily Inquirer.

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