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Nearly all Filipinos support free higher education — survey

MANILA, Philippines — Most Filipinos approve of tuition-free schooling in public colleges and universities due to its perceived impact on widening access to higher education, according to a Pulse Asia survey.

Around 98% of Filipinos surveyed support the free tuition law in tertiary education, according to a poll commissioned by Senate basic education panel chairperson Sherwin Gatchalian, signaling majority support for the landmark program that has consistently been doubted for its long-term sustainability.  

RELATED: Lawmakers defend free tuition for college students amid sustainability concerns | 

Most Filipinos said that they were supportive of free education due to its effect on increasing the number of college graduates (51%), while the rest cited reasons such as the program's contribution to improving students' skills (19%), the rights of the youth (18%) and the responsibility of the government in providing such a program (11%).

Only 0.4% of respondents said that their primary reason for supporting free higher education was to help them save money. 

Support for free college education was also observed across all socio-economic classes, with at least 99% in Classes ABC and 97% in Class D favoring tuition-free schooling. Meanwhile, members of Class E unanimously (100%) expressed support for the program. 

Similarly, there were few geographical differences in terms of support for free higher education, with 98% of respondents from the National Capital Region, 96% from Balance Luzon, 99% from Visayas and 100% from Mindanao favoring the free tuition law.

The survey was conducted from September 10 to 14 among 1,200 respondents. 

In a statement, Gatchalian said that of the 1% who said they did not support free tuition in public universities, nearly half cited its impact on the quality of education, while 47% were concerned about underfunding in public universities.

Since Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act was enacted in 2018, more students have been vying to access tuition-free schooling in the limited number of SUCs in the country.

While the ratio used to be 70-30 in favor of private colleges and universities,