THE Commission on Higher Education (CHED) disclosed on Friday that over 4,000 poor students get P60,000 each yearly.
However, the Students Grant-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (SGP-PA) under the conditional cash transfer (CCT) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has not produced so far any graduate.
“Wala pang graduates under the CCT program. The SGP-PA was implemented only last year that’s why we don’t have graduates,” Patricia Licuanan, CHED chair, said in a text interview.
Licuanan said the Commission has provided financial assistance to 4,041 students enrolled in 35 selected state universities and colleges (SUCs) with a budget of P500 million under the Disbursement Acceleration Plan (DAP).
“To date, a total of 4,041 students have benefited from the SGP-PA,” she said.
A student-beneficiary is entitled up to P60,000 grant per school year. The beneficiaries of the program come from identified and classified poor households in the 609 focus municipalities covered under the 4Ps of the DSWD.
Licuanan further noted that student-beneficiaries were selected by the DSWD under its Pantawid Pamilyang Pili-pino program.
Most innovative scheme
“So far, the SGP-PA is the most innovative and generous scheme of the government to arrest poverty [college students and their families]by increasing the number of graduates in higher education among poor households. There is no more excuse for students not to finish studies,” she said.
The graduates, according to her, are expected to acquire high value-added jobs that will lift their families out of poverty, generate employment and entrepreneurship within their families, among their relatives and in their communities.
Licuanan said the SGP-PA has been implemented in to its existing Student Financial Assisted Programs.
Julito Vitriolo, CHED executive director, earlier said that the Commission will also provide four-year college education to former rebels and amnesty grantees through the Bangsamoro and Pamana Special Grants-In-Aid Programs which have already benefited over 800 beneficiaries.
Vitriolo also said that they will increase its support to private colleges and universities under the Expanded Private Education Student Financial Assistance program in the amount of P1 billion or more than 32,000 slots for the academic year 2014-2015.
This allocation is over and above the requested P1 billion or approximately 26,000 slots for SGP-PA beneficiaries and students in SUCs.
Meanwhile, DSWD earlier said that it is studying the possibility to expand the coverage of the educational grant of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program from 14 to 18 years old to give the children-beneficiaries the chance to finish high school.
At present, the program only supports children aged zero to14 or up to second year high school.
The Philippine Institute for Development Studies has recommended DSWD to continue supporting the education of the poor students at the elementary level
The call to expand the program to cover complete high school education is also evident in numerous consultations with parent beneficiaries, DSWD Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman said.
She pointed out that “by supporting our beneficiaries up to secondary level the program tries to avoid negative effects on the labor market by producing more educated and more skilled labor force.”
Fine-toothed combed for CCT
In a related development, the incoming minority bloc in the Senate has vowed to pay an active role in scrutinizing the P2.26 trillion proposed budget for 2014 especially the government allocation for the CCT program, state universities and colleges and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Sen. Jose Victor Ejercito Estrada, of the United Nationalist Alliance said that he would like to see how the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DWSD) utilized the P40 billion CCT funds for this year.
The neophyte senator wants to know if the program has been serving its purpose to help uplift the live of poorest of poor members of the society and determine if there is a need to lower the allocation.
Even with the huge budget allocation for the CCT program in 2013, hunger incidence in the country has risen during the first three months of the this year based on the survey conducted by the social weather stations (SWS).
According to the SWS survey 19.2 percent of the 1,200 adult respondents experienced hunger during the first quarter of the year, higher than the 16.3 percent hunger incidence in December 2012.
The survey also shows a decrease of on hunger incidence in Metro Manila by at least 4 points from 25.3 to 21.7 and on the entire Luzon from 17.8 percent to 13.8 percent.
SWS also showed that the highest number of hungry Filipinos are in Mindanao including the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao one of the areas with the most number of CCT beneficiaries.
Ejercito Estrada also wants to look closely on the budget of SUCs to find out if the heads of the said institutions have been using the funds correctly.
In March a student of the University of the Philippines Manila committed suicide after failing to pay for school fees.
The student was forced to file a leave of absence by the school because of the “no late payment policy” of the university.
Earlier, Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Nancy Binay also expressed their intention to look into the DSWD and DILG budgets.
Estrada wants to find out if the CCT program is being implemented equally among the poor. Binay on the other hand said that local government is close to her heart that is why she wanted to review the DILG budget.
DILG is headed by Secretary Manuel Roxas, who was defeated by then Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay in the vice presidential race.
Neil A. Alcober And Jefferson Antiporda