Albay asks scholars to pay back loans

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LEGAZPI CITY, Albay: More than 17,000 college graduates who availed of close to P1 billion in scholarship loans have been asked to pay immediately by the provincial government of Albay.

Former Gov. Joey Salceda obtained a scholarship loan of P700 million from Land Bank of the Philippines in 2010 for his project of one scholar for every household.

The loans, under the “study now pay later” scheme, paid for a four-year course, with loan payment to be made once a scholar finds a stable job.

Records of Albay Higher Education Scheme (AHECS) created by Salceda showed that from 34,000 student-scholars in 2007, the number grew to 77,172 in 2012 and 88,444 in 2015. Of the number, 17,300 have already graduated.

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AHECS officials said the province has allotted P14 million from the province’s annual budget in 2009 and 2010 for the initial scholar-grantees prior to the release of the loans.

They added that the total amount due for collection under the scholarship program runs to P530 million while the total amount collected from the graduates was only P348,849.00 as of July 14, 2016.

Vice Gov. Harold Imperial said it is high time for the provincial government to compel all graduates under the scholarship program, including dropouts, to pay back their loans even if they are jobless.

A source of The Manila Times said many graduates since 2014 remain jobless, the reason why Salceda would not pressure them to pay.

Hailed by Albayanos, the scholarship program became controversial after scholars exposed that some affiliated schools in collaboration with some members of the provincial board who were given allocations of scholars from within their district allegedly demanded certain percentage in every student’s semestral release payable to the schools.

Documents leaked to the media in 2011 identified one school in Guinobatan, Albay, whose records of student-scholars contained the name of the provincial board members and the commissions they allegedly received equivalent to 35 percent of the student semestral enrolment pay.

Salceda called for a probe but no one was made culpable, with the perpetrators merely given a warning.

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