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Free Tuition in Public Universities in Colombia


University of Antioquia in Medellin, Colombia. Credit: wikipedia.

The law, promoted by the government, establishes completely free education for undergraduate studies in public universities in the country, starting this year.

One of the main commitments of President Gustavo Petro’s government, as announced during the campaign, is to guarantee universal access to education. In this regard, the Historic Pact party promoted Law 260 of 2022, which establishes free higher education.

After intense parliamentary debates, the law was approved in the Senate with 74 votes in favor and none against. At this moment, it only requires the signature of the Ministers of Education and Finance, as well as the final approval from the President of the Republic, for the law to be sanctioned and come into effect.

The cost of free education

The economic resources to finance the law will be allocated from the General National Budget and will not affect the budget of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). To ensure compliance with the law, the government has allocated a record budget of 54.8 trillion Colombian pesos (13 billion dollars) for the education sector.

Who does it affect?

The no-fee law applies to the 64 institutions that make up the HEIs in Colombia, including 34 universities and 30 technical, technological, and university institutions. Among the most important institutions is the National University.

Regarding potential beneficiaries, the law grants the government a six-month period to establish admission criteria for candidates to the Zero Tuition Program. The idea is to prioritize young people from vulnerable contexts, remote rural areas, and municipalities within the Territorial Development Programs (PDET).

Government satisfaction

According to statements by Senator María José Pizarro, a spokesperson for the Historic Pact coalition during the law debate, “its approval fulfills one of President Petro’s main commitments: to guarantee higher education that is free and of quality for all young people.” Pizarro clarified that the law covers all socioeconomic strata, not just the lowest, and this reality will be reinforced “with the reform of Law 30,” which is the country’s education law in effect since 1992.

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