‘Pork barrel scholars’ to get P4B in grants
MANILA, Philippines—After worrying earlier how it could support the former “pork barrel scholars,” the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) can rest easy after receiving a record P4 billion for college scholarships for the next school year.
CHEd Executive Director Julito Vitriolo said this would support some 340,000 college students.
Vitriolo said the scholarships would go mainly to students from low-income families who enroll in CHEd-identified priority courses in state universities and colleges (SUCs).
Among the preferred courses for CHEd scholars are engineering, science and technology, teacher training, maritime education, information and technology, geological sciences and agriculture.
Thousands of college students lost their scholarships last year after the Supreme Court struck the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel of legislators that supported their studies.
CHEd Chair Patricia Licuanan then said that they would “work something out” to support the legislators’ scholars.
The CHEd is planning to revise its guidelines for student financial assistance programs, which were issued on Dec. 31, 2012, after drawing flak from state auditors.
The latest Commission on Audit (COA) report found that in 2012, the CHEd did not adhere to its own guidelines and minimum requirements for scholars who were supported by congressional and executive branch funds.
State auditors found the CHEd had allowed the legislators to pick their scholars regardless of whether they met academic or financial requirements, and that the CHEd had allowed the legislators to exceed the maximum allowable grant of P30,000 a year.
Admitting the COA criticism compelled them to revise their guidelines, Licuanan said the CHEd had added policy safeguards to improve payment modes and schedules and simplify procedures and documents.
Under the draft guidelines to be presented in public hearings, the CHEd raised the minimum annual gross family income level for qualified applicants from P300,000 to P500,000.
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