Loan assistance program for students sought

Lamenting that quality higher education remains inaccessible to the poor, a Mindanao lawmaker has sought the creation of a national, comprehensive, and integrated loan assistance program for underprivileged, but deserving students.

Bukidnon Rep. Rogelio Neil P. Roque filed House Bill 3215 seeking the establishment of a Higher Education Accessibility Loan Program (HEALP).

“Despite government efforts to make higher education accessible to all citizens through scholarships, and grant-in-aid and special loan programs, quality higher education remains inaccessible to many, especially to the poor or underprivileged,” he stressed.

HB 3215 or the proposed “Higher Education Accessibility Act” provides that any Filipino citizen who graduates from a duly recognized high school and desires to continue a vocational or college education, or any college graduate who wishes to pursue post graduate studies may apply for an educational loan under the HEALP.

“The applicant, however, should pass the entrance examination and requirements of the school, college or university where the applicant intends to enroll,” Roque explained.

HB 3215 calls for the creation of an Executive Committee (ExeCom) that shall formulate policies, manage and supervise HEALP.

The maximum loan amount, to be determined by the ExeCom, shall cover tuition fees, school fees and educational expenses for books, subsistence, and board and lodging, according to the bill.

“The loan amount covering tuition fees, other school fees, and education expenses for books shall be released directly to the school on semestral basis while the amount intended for subsistence and board and lodging shall be released monthly,” Roque said.

Sitting in the Execom include the: Chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education as chairperson; the Director General of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) as vice-chairperson; three representatives from national students’ organizations or associations; two representatives from state universities and colleges; and two representatives from private universities and colleges, as members.

Roque explained that under his measure, the borrower could pay after finishing the entire course or profession and gaining an employment or even after he or she has started a profitable business.

If a borrower fails to finish the course but secures gainful employment or operates a business, he/she must still pay the loan as covered by promissory notes, guarantees and other loan instruments in securing the loan which he executed before the grant of said loan, he said.

“The loan shall bear an interest of six percent per annum except for the loan of the borrower whose family income is below the poverty threshold as certified by the DSWD or the local government unit where the borrower resides. Those below the poverty threshold shall be charged two percent per annum,” he said.

HB 3215 provides that the amortization under the HEALP shall be automatically deducted by the GSIS and SSS from the salary of the borrower upon employment and the borrower may also opt to pay directly to any branch of a government bank deputized to receive loan payments.

“Education is not only a major factor in the nation’s economic and social growth but also an important tool for human development,” Roque said.

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