President Michelle Bachelet said Monday that free higher education in Chile, which will go into effect in 2016 after 35 years during which all students paid tuition, "is a right, not a gift."

"We always believed that education is a right and the fact that we are moving ahead strongly in that direction fills us with joy," said the president, who this Monday visited the home of a student whose studies at the University of Chile this year will cost him nothing.

In the first year of free university education, some 165,000 students will enjoy the new measure.

Bachelet said Monday that she would have liked more young people to have access to the benefit, but warned that "we have to be responsible because of the economic situation facing the country."

Chile's economic growth tapered off in 2015, coming in at roughly 2 percent - and the trend is expected to continue in 2016.

Bachelet told students to "get a move on" because the government "will compensate your efforts so you can begin your university education."

The chief requisite for getting free higher education is belonging to households whose income is not above 180,000 pesos ($250) a month per family member. EFE