Albay, Landbank sign P700-M loan for college scholarships
Legazpi City (22 June) -- Albay province has signed Wednesday (June 16) a P700 million loan package with the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to finance a first-in-the-country education strategy that aims to produce "a college graduate for every family" through an encompassing yet simplified study now-pay later scheme.
Albay Governor Joey Salceda, who authored the program, referred to it as an "Education Driven Development" (see presentation below); a development approach for his province anchored on a vigorous, well-planned, financed and executed college and vocational education, a system that practically invites more scholars, ups enrollment and produce more graduates.
Salceda signed the loan agreement with LBP President and Chief Executive Officer Gilda Pico Wednesday, June 16, in the presence of LBP ranking officers and Albay Provincial officials, among them, members of the provincial board and members of the media at Land Bank main office in Malate, Manila.
The loan will be used to finance government scholars in the tertiary level, under the Albay Higher Education Contribution Scheme (AHECS), enrolled at the Bicol University and other community colleges in Albay which, this year alone will pay for over 12,000 college freshmen until they graduate. This is estimated to trigger a growth in college enrolment in Albay by 40%.
"I would have placed this amount in infrastructures. But I believe diplomas give better economic returns than roads and bridges," Salceda said.
"A well-educated constituency has a lot of social payback and economic benefits. It expands their labor mobility. They will seek better jobs. The difference in economic return between an elementary graduate and a secondary graduate is about 7%. But the differential between a college graduate and a high school graduate is about 21%. With diplomas, they can seek jobs elsewhere and not cramp the limited jobs market of Albay. Diplomas are like visas", he added.
Salceda further stated that at a certain stage, Albay will gain the reputation as the natural source of well-educated labor force. The availability of trainable workforce will serve as a come-on for investors.
Considered a first of its kind in the country, Albay's education program in all levels, has lately been gaining grounds, among others, raising students' learning standard as was proven in the 2009 National Achievement Test (NAT) where the province garnered the 106th place out of 202 divisions, a distant leaped of 69 places from a poor 175th in 2007.
Salceda said the province's present goal is to get to the top 40 schools in NAT within the next three years, and the top 10 within the next six years; there is no room for complacency, simply no space for mediocrity. The education agenda, though, is backed up by a portfolio of interventions, among others, an institutional capacity-building program.
Albay is presently the only province in the country with a Provincial Education Department (PED) - best known earlier as Education Quality for Albayanos (EQUAL) - created by an ordinance, with plantilla staff approved by the Civil Service Commission and the Department of Budget and Management, overseen by a special advisory group - the Albay Council of Educators.
Salceda said Albay has committed over 17% of its annual budget now to education subsidy, under the PED, specifically EQUAL, which this year costs over P178 million - now the biggest item in its expenditure.
The province's Special Education Fund (SEF), separated from the regular PED budget, which is used in, among others, sports program and maintenance of schools and classrooms in schools divisions, grew from only about P5 million in 2007 to P18 million in 2010, according to Salceda.
"Albay's education program is producing the social impact; the number of college population has grown by 15% in three years from 34,000 to 38,000 due to provincial scholarships; and college graduates grew by 31% per year from 6,300 to 8,300, more or less," Salceda concluded. (LGU Albay) [top]