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Iskolar ng Bayan Act assures top high school grads of scholarships

MANILA-- The chair of the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education on Thursday said that 80,000 of the country’s best-performing high school graduates are now assured of scholarships in 112 state universities and colleges (SUCs) with the upcoming ratification of the Iskolar ng Bayan Act.

Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo said that they expect the bill to breeze through the Senate-House conference panel.

“We all want to ensure that next year’s highest-rated high school graduates will start benefiting from the scholarships. It is good as done,” he said.

The House of Representatives unanimously passed the proposed Iskolar ng Bayan Act on third and final reading on Wednesday, not long after the Senate approved its version of the bill.

Sponsored by Romulo, the measure will establish the Iskolar ng Bayan Program under which the top 10 graduates of every public high school shall be entitled to admission to the SUC of his or her choice within his or her province, without having to pay for first-year tuition and miscellaneous fees.

Public high schools with more than 1,000 graduates shall enjoy one additional college scholarship slot for every 500 graduates.

It would be granted to graduates whose ranks immediately follow the top 10.

“We have around 8,000 public high schools nationwide, so we expect more than 80,000 graduates every year to benefit from the program,” Romulo said.

After the first-year college scholarship under the program, the student beneficiary shall be covered by financial assistance from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) if qualified.

In the proposed 2015 national budget, SUCs have a total of P3.5 billion available for scholarships.

This is on top of the CHED’s P2.2 billion allotment for student financial aid.

Meanwhile, besides championing the Iskolar ng Bayan Act, Romulo has also been pushing for greater public access to higher education.

He is the principal author of the proposed Voluntary Student Loan Program by Private Banks, which has since been passed on third and final reading by the House and is now pending Senate action.

Under the program, an eligible student may obtain a low-cost bank loan to pay for the tuition of the college where the borrower has been accepted.

The student may also use the money to finance all other schooling as well as living expenses.

The loan would have an effective interest rate pegged to the 91-day Treasury bill rate, which stood at 1.373 percent per annum as of Thursday

The bank may apply an add-on 3.0 to 5.0 percent annual interest rate, but instead of the student paying for the extra interest charges, the lender may claim the corresponding amount as tax credits.

The bank may then use the credits to pay or offset its tax obligations.

As for the borrower, he or she would pay off the loan periodically, starting two years after graduation, but not later than eight years after leaving college.

Borrowers would be issued either Social Security System (SSS) or Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) numbers depending on their preferred future employment.

The bank may then enlist the SSS or GSIS to collect repayments via salary deduction.

Banks may also ask the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to help collect from borrowers with job contracts abroad. (PNA)

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