Graduates: Glad to wait?


How much does a college diploma cost? And after getting it, how much does a diploma earn?

The annual tuition fee and related fees in the country’s top schools range from P50,000 (University of the Philippines) to 178,241 (Ateneo de Manila University). That was in 2015, based on the institutions’ websites.

In contrast, students of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) pay only P1,500 per semester or P3,000 annually. Even if PUP increases tuition fees to P13,200 yearly to make up for the loss of 12,000 freshmen resulting from the implementation of the K+12 program (no new entrants this year) the amount is still miniscule compared to the top private institutions and UP.

Dr. Emmanuel de Guzman, PUP President explained, however, that the “increase” would apply only to about 5,000 11th and grade and 5,000 12th grade student senior high schoolers that the university had been allowed to accept this year by the Department of Education.

Since there are no funds in their annual appropriations to absorb 10,000 11th and 12th grade senior high school students, the education department has agreed to allot P22,000 per student annually, Dr. de Guzman explains. “Otherwise, certain faculty members would lose their jobs.”

PUP’s “tuition fee” of P22,000 is $613.09 Canadian or US$470.32 – a bargain compared to college education costs overseas.

The top 10 cheapest colleges in California charges anywhere from $6,000 to $7,000 yearly.

California State University – East Bay – a“high-access, four-year University” in Hayward, has forty undergraduate majors and nearly as many minors, providing students with plenty of options. The tuition fee is $6,536 per year for domestic students and $15,492 for non-resident or international students.

Is a college degree worth it for students in the US and Canada?

A Pew Research Center survey in February 2016 (“What Americans say it takes to be

middle class”) reveals that the difference in value that Americans place on a college degree “differs significantly by income.”

Since 2012, forty percent of households with an annual income of less than $30,000 say a college degree is necessary to be in the middle class, “compared with 26percent of those who make $30,000 to $74,999 and 22percent of those who make $75,000 or more.”

The research center noted, “Those who consider themselves part of the lower and lower-middle classes are more likely than those in the middle or upper-middle/upper classes to say a college education is key to being middle class.”

A U.S. Census Bureau report in 2010, meanwhile, shows that “adults who graduated from a four-year college believe that, on average, they are earning $20,000 more a year as a result of having gotten that degree.”

Conversely, this report cited that “adults who did not attend college believe that, on average, they are earning $20,000 a year less as a result.”

Another study by Georgetown University Center on Education in 2012 (The College Payoff) found that “adults with bachelor’s degrees enjoyed a significantly larger boost to their earnings levels over time. For example, college graduates ages 40-44 earn, on average, 50 percent more than when they first started working; in contrast, workers ages 40-44 with a high school diploma only earn, on average, 25 percent more after 20+ years in the workforce.”

Forbes Investing on May 19, 2014 reports that“college graduates can expect to bring in $2.3 million during their lifetimes versus $1.3 million for high school graduates only. In other words, bachelor’s degree holders currently earn 74 percent more over the span of their working years than those with just a high school diploma.”

Filipino students and their parents expect the same: that a college degree would lead to a decent paying job and to most, a way out of poverty; not just decent pay, but a better quality of life.

Philippine students mill around diplomas
There are 1.2 million college and technical education students who graduate every year, almost the same number of applicants in 3,686 job fairs conducted by the Department of Labor and Employment. However, only 30percent got hired.

Of those hired how much is the average annual salary? reports the following (Philippine pesos)

Accounting Assistant,14,424    Registered Nurse, 10,309
Accountant, 22,343 Chef, Kitchen, 17,000
Call center agents, 16,021    Pre-school teacher, 15,418
Civil Engineer, 19,736 University instructor, 18,000
Software Engineer, 30,028 Administrative asst., 14,353

A college degree, technical diploma from TESDA, are not guarantees to even an entry level job. There are vacancies but there is a lack of qualified applicants due to a jobs-skills mismatch, according to the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.

For graduates or first year labor market entrants, is it worth waiting another year or work full time and gain experience? If not, what is the alternative? Take a peek into the reality of Philippine job market.

Let’s see the career pathways of two graduates in 2014: Jessa, a Business Administration graduate and Eric, TECH-VOC graduate of a two year IT course. Jessa is single while Eric is living with a common law partner. Both have parents in the U.S. and had filed visa petitions for them. Jessa’s father is a U.S. citizen: Eric’s only a green card holder or permanent resident.

Jessa’s visa category is F1, Eric, F2B Because the over-21 son or daughter of a green card holder cannot get married (the petition will be automatically revoked if he does) Eric had been in a live-in relationship with Florence, a licensed nurse with just 1 year of experience.

After graduation in 2014, Jessa could not find a job directly related to her course – Business Administration. Being fluent in English, she was hired in a business process outsourcing company. Her starting salary was PhP17,000. Last year her salary almost doubled to PhP36,000.

Eric’s parents, on the other hand, encouraged him to pursue further studies in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and provided him with tuition for the first semester as well as the required show money for Eric and Florence.

Since international students are allowed to work in Canada, Eric checked the vacancies posted by employers in campus. He found jobs paying $10 per hour (20 hours a week part time and 40 hours during off-school sessions) while Florence was allowed to work full time. She was hired in a healthcare residential facility earning $18 per hour. The gross take home pay of both last year was $47,360 or the equivalent of close to PhP2 million, which after a 22percent income tax was reduced to $36,940.80 or about PhP1.3M.

Florence pursued her career as an RN, took a 1-year related course, and passed the NCLEX. She now works as an RN with an annual salary of $45,000. Eric did not finish his 2-year IT course in animation since he got a job offer. He applied for residency under the Express Entry selection system. He was selected. They are now permanent residents in Canada with a combined gross income of almost $90,000 or the equivalent of more than PhP3.2 million.

An unexpected bonus: Eric and Florence remain common-law-partners, not married. Hence Eric can still get his U.S. permanent resident card and cross the border. After that, he could return to Canada, marry Florence and file a spouse petition for her. Both would have permanent residency in Canada and the U.S.

International students in Australia and New Zealand are also allowed to work part-time while studying, full time during vacation or school breaks. The spouse or partner of a full-time international student is also allowed to work. In both countries, an option to pursue permanent residency is available through each country’s selection system: SkillSelect in Australia and Expression of Interest in New Zealand.

Meanwhile, Jessa is enjoying her status as one of the highest paid employee in the BPO industry and now works normal hours instead of night shifts. BPO workers are projected to bring in more foreign currency (dollars) to the Philippines equaling, if not surpassing,

OFW remittances.

Two graduates, two paths.

Was Jessa’s decision to wait and stay in the Philippines instead of going abroad worth the weight in gold?

Quality of life is what matters. Self-fulfillment is not bound by borders.


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