MANILA, Philippines - The Social Security System (SSS) has nearly P7 billion waiting to be tapped under its educational assistance program even as the nation tries to come to terms with the suicide of a University of the Philippines-Manila freshman over lack of tuition money.
In a statement, the SSS said more than 12,000 college and vocational-technical students across the country have so far benefited from its educational loan facility totaling P148.64 million in 2012 alone.
Ma. Luz Generoso, SSS assistant vice president for lending and asset management, said they expect more members to borrow this year under the SSS Educational Assistance Loan (Educ-Assist) Program.
“The billions of pesos allotted for the program reflect the government’s firm commitment to bring education within reach of present and future workers. To a wider extent, the Educ-Assist program helps boost national economic growth through increased worker productivity,” Generoso said.
The pension fund earmarked a total of P3.5 billion for the program, launched during the Labor Day celebration last year.
The national government chipped in P3.5 billion more as counterpart funding.
Educ-Assist loan disbursements last year for 11,790 college enrollees amounted to P145.84 million, while another P2.8 million was released for 398 students taking up voc-tech programs.
Recent adjustments in Educ-Assist guidelines have widened the field of eligible borrowers, although the loan program remains intended for low wage earners.
Initially, only active SSS members with a monthly income of P10,000 or below may borrow.
“Now, members earning up to P15,000 per month may qualify for SSS Educ-Assist loans, as long as they have up-to-date payments on other SSS loans and at least 36 monthly contributions, three of which must be posted within the 12-month period prior to application date,” Generoso said.
Beneficiaries of Educ-Assist loans may be the SSS members themselves, their legal spouse or dependent children, while unmarried members can designate their siblings – including half-brothers or half-sisters – as beneficiaries of the loan program.
However, only one beneficiary is allowed per SSS member.
“The beauty of the Educ-Assist program is the sustained financial support given to the student. This is not a one-time loan release, but a series of fund disbursements until the student graduates from college or completes his or her voc-tech training course,” Generoso said.
Maximum loan releases every semester or trimester are pegged at P15,000 for college degree programs and P7,500 for voc-tech courses.
Just like in the Study Now-Pay Later scheme, loan payment will only start one year after graduation or from the date of the last loan release, at an interest rate of about three percent per annum.
Members will repay the loan within five years for college courses and three years for voc-tech programs.
Pork for UP
Meanwhile, records reveal that the UP has received nearly P235 million in pork barrel funds from senators over a four-year period, on top of the institution’s combined budgets of almost P25 billion.
A check with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) website shows that the bulk of the funds went to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), which is part of the UP system and which serves as its medical school.
This year, a group of congressmen led by Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City is planning to raise P100 million for UP’s scholarship funds.
The university received P15 million from senators in 2009, P99 million in 2010, P54.4 million in 2011, and P66.150 million in 2012.
Among its donors are Franklin Drilon, Serge Osmeña III, Loren Legarda, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Antonio Trillanes IV, and Richard Gordon.
In 2009, Gordon gave his alma mater P5 million for the purchase of medical equipment and P2 million for financial assistance to indigent patients.
That same year, Jamby Madrigal, Francis Pangilinan and Ramon Revilla Jr. gave PGH P5 million, P1 million and P2 million, respectively, for indigent constituent-patients.
In 2010, UP’s biggest donor was another alumnus, Drilon, who devoted all of his P50 million for the rehabilitation of PGH’s operating rooms.
A third alumnus, Loren Legarda, allocated P10 million for the completion of the UP College of Mass Communication’s Film Institute building, while Pangilinan gave it P5 million for scholarships and P1.5 million for indigent patients at PGH.
Alan Peter Cayetano gave the university a P3-million financial assistance, plus P3 million for poor patients, while sister Pia allocated P5 million for the purchase of various equipment and supplies.
Trillanes allotted P1 million for UP scholarships and P5 million for indigent patients.
PGH also received P3 million from Jinggoy Estrada, P2.5 million from Teofisto Guingona III, P2 million from Ferdinand Marcos Jr., P3 million from Osmeña, and P3 million from Manuel Villar.
In 2011, UP’s biggest donor was Osmeña, who gave the university P30 million for the construction of an innovation center for technology businesses at its Cebu branch.
Its Los Baños branch received P5 million from Drilon for the completion of its agribusiness center for entrepreneurship.
Pangilinan allocated an additional P1 million for scholarships, while Aquilino Pimentel III gave P600,000 for the same purpose, plus P3 million for indigent patients.
Legarda gave the school P1 million for the procurement of various medical equipment and P500,00 for the repair of the graduate school building in UP-Visayas, plus P1 million for poor patients.
PGH received an additional P1 million from Pia Cayetano for poor patients, P4 million from Juan Ponce Enrile, P500,000 from Gregorio Honasan, P1.3 million from Marcos, P2.5 million from Revilla, and P1 million from Trillanes.
Last year, Santiago allocated P13 million for the construction of a building at the UP College of Law, while Trillanes gave the university P8.8 million for scholarships.
The College of Law received an additional P1 million from Pia Cayetano for repairs, while the College of Education got P500,000 financial assistance from Villar.
PGH received P21 million from Drilon for its poor patients, P8 million from Alan Cayetano, P2 million from Pia Cayetano, P10 million from Guingona, P1 million from Francis Escudero, P1.25 million from Honasan, P1 million each from Revilla and Marcos, P250,000 from Lito Lapid, P5 million from Villar, and P850,000 from Edgardo Angara, who was UP president during the Marcos regime.
In terms of taxpayers’ subsidy, UP was allocated P7.058 billion in the national budget in 2009, P6.916 billion in 2010, P5.751 billion in 2011, and P5.748 billion last year.
This year, it has P9.529 billion.
In contrast, another state school, Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), which has a lot more students than UP, was given only about a 10th of UP’s budget.
PUP had P665.4 million in 2009, P640.4 million in 2010, P677.6 million in 2011, and P734.8 million in 2012.
This year, PUP, known as the poor man’s university, has P916.8 million.
No other state university or college has received as much as UP in pork barrel funds from senators.
Additionally, PGH is the beneficiary of tens of millions more in funds from members of the House of Representatives for their poor constituents. -- With Jess Diaz