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Panelo claim that free tuition requires high grades needs context

Senatorial aspirant Salvador Panelo’s claim that a high maintaining grade is one of the requisites for free college tuition needs context.

The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act require students to “comply with the admission and/or retention policies” of state universities and colleges (SUCs) or local universities and colleges (LUCs) to avail free tuition.

However, it makes no mention of students needing to maintain high marks as Panelo claimed.

In a Facebook Live video taken in Talavera, Nueva Ecija and posted on March 13, Panelo cited high maintaining grades as one of the reasons only few students from the province benefit from the free tuition policy. He said at 1:27 mark:

Unang una dapat makapag-examin ka, pangalawa dapat manatiling mataas ang grado mo, pag hindi ah etsapwera ka (First, you need to take an admission exam. Second, you need to maintain a high grade, if not you will be left out).

Sec. 6 of RA 10931’s IRR lists three conditions students don’t qualify for free tuition:

  • They have already obtained a bachelor’s degree or comparable undergraduate degree from any public or private higher education institution.

  • They fail to comply with the admission and/or retention policies of the SUCs or LUCs, leading to students’ disqualification to enroll.

  • They fail to complete their bachelor’s degree or comparable undergraduate degree within a year after the period prescribed in their program

Students may also voluntarily opt out of the free higher education provision.

While a maintaining grade is a common retention policy of most colleges, the free tuition law does not set a specific maintaining mark to be eligible for free tuition.

There is also no single admission and retention policy for all SUCs or LUCs because this is set by each institution, according to the implementing rules of Republic Act 8292 or the Higher Education Modernization Act.

Panelo correctly said only 12% of free tuition beneficiaries came from poor families.

As of March 18, Panelo’s post garnered 8,800 likes and 42,000 views. (KC)


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