by Jaime P. Guimbao
Being a teacher had always been my dream since I started going to school and I was just waiting for the right time to pursue it. As such, I felt that 2019 was the perfect time to turn my childhood dream into a reality so I dropped everything and decided to go back to school after years of working in an IT firm. I was prepared both mentally and financially to face the new chapter of my life. To give enough time to my studies, I gave up my full-time work and settled for a part-time commission-based job in the financial services sector. I was admitted to the Associate in Arts program of the University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) with the plan to proceed to the Bachelor of Education Studies (BES) and become a licensed teacher. Everything fell into place as planned.
As a UPOU student, I learned to adapt and embrace the open and distance elearning mode of education. In no time, I was able to adjust to the life of a distance and online student. Unexpectedly, the pandemic happened and problems began. I lost my job since it relied heavily on the employees who, at that time, we’re unable to report for work due to health protocols and government restrictions. Having the responsibility of supporting an entire family with no source of income was overwhelming and eventually drained my savings including my allocation for my studies.
With a heavy heart, I planned to quit school and just continue my studies when the pandemic ends. While filling out the leave of absence (LOA) application form, I received an email notification sent by the Scholarship and Financial Services Program under the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) of the UPOU. The email informed qualified students of UPOU to avail of the financial assistance and scholarships offered by the university. Needless to say, I applied and got approved for a scholarship under the Student Learning Assistance System (SLAS) Online. I was able to continue my studies through the scholarships offered by UPOU.
To give you an idea, the SLAS was established “to expand the support to financially challenged students and expedite processing support for academic activities.” The SLAS Online supports applications to the following learning assistance programs: Grants-in-Aid Program (GIAP), Tertiary Education Subsidy, Learning Assistance for Remote Learning, Kaagapay sa Pag-aaral Program ng Iskolar ng Bayan Program, and Donor-funded Scholarship Programs. For more information on SLAS and its various programs, please visit the SLAS Online page.
My scholarship was a big help, but I also needed to have a source of income for my other needs. I then decided to apply as a Student Assistant (SA) through the Student Assistant and Graduate Assistant (SAGA) Program offered by the UPOU OSA. As an SA, I had the option to choose the schedule convenient for me and the number of work hours I can render in a week. To ensure that studies are not neglected, an SA can only work a maximum of 120 hours a month. Payment can be received either twice a month or once a month. To apply as an SA or GA (Graduate Assistant), please check the Student Assistant and Graduate Assistant (SAGA) page.
Fast forward to the present, I am down to my last two terms before my graduation under the AA program. If not with the scholarships and assistance offered by UPOU, I couldn’t have continued my studies. Completing a UP education and being a Iskolar ng Bayan should no longer be difficult to attain especially to those who are qualified but financially challenged students. The UPOU OSA–through its Scholarships and Financial Services Program, Student Assistant and Graduate Assistant Program, and Student Loan Program–is committed to assist students by granting scholarships, giving opportunities to earn while studying, and extending financial and other forms of assistance.
To my fellow cyber Iskolar ng Bayan, Padayon!
UPOU also offers other scholarship and financial assistance programs made possible through the support and generosity of private donors and institutions. Availability of the grants provided by privately-funded scholarships may be limited but very helpful to the recipients. These include the Juan and Isabel Zapanta Scholarship, PLDT InfoTech Scholarship, and UP Alumni Quesada-Fulgado and Friends Scholarship, to name a few. Please access the UPOU OSA webpage for the scholarship availability, qualifications, requirements, and application process.
The UPOU OSA also assists students through its Student Loan Program (SLP). The initiative is helpful to enrollees who are unable to complete their registration due to financial difficulties. Once approved, students have the option to pay the borrowed amount either in a lump sum or through installment payments by the end of the applicable term. To avail of a student loan, please visit the Student Loan Program (SLP) page.
It is notable to mention, however, that UPOU is implementing RA No. 10931 known as the “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act of 2017.” Under the Act, tuition and other school fees (OSF) will not be collected from qualified undergraduate students. For more information on the free tuition qualifications, please visit UPOU Office of the Registrar (OUR) website.