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Mayor eyes scholarships for high school graduates

First Posted 06:54:00 02/09/2010

Senior high school students in Cebu City public schools have a good reason to strive to graduate in March.

Mayor Tomas Osmeña yesterday announced a plan to release P10,000 to P20,000 as tuition aid and allowances for each public high school graduate to get a college education.

?We will give them a chance. We will give them financial support so that they can study here,? the mayor told reporters.

The mayor, who is running for congressman in the city's south district, has yet to finalize the details of his proposal.

Osmeña said he was still discussing it with Cebu City Administrator Francisco Fernandez and Education Consultant Joy Young.

About 95,000 Cebu City public high school students are set to graduate in March.The mayor expects to spend at least P100 million in city funds for the scholarships.

Initially, he said he wanted to release P10,000 in cash aid for students living in urban barangays and P20,000 each for those in the mountain barangays.

Half of the amount would pay for college tuition while the other half would be used as allowances and boarding house expenses.

Osmeña said he didn?t want the money released directly to the students, who may be tempted to use the money to buy cellular phones.

The mayor said he wanted tuition aid to be paid directly to the school where the graduate wished to be enrolled.

?We will be appropriating P10,000 for each student in the public schools in Cebu City, all graduates, even those who will be graduating during summer. We'll give the money to the school, to charge it against their (college) tuition,? Osmeña said.

The college or university, however, should be one that is paying taxes to the city government, he said.

?Kon di sila mobayad og buhis, bahala na sila (If they won't pay taxes, that's up to them.) Why should I give grace to those who don't want to pay taxes?? he said.

The Cebu city government is in court over a tax dispute with several private colleges and universities.

However, the University of Cebu and the Cebu Institute of Technology expressed interest to settle their tax dues with the remaining balance to be paid to the city through the grant of scholarships to city residents.

Young said about 95,000 Cebu City public high school students are set to graduate in March.

He said City Hall still has to decide whether state-run schools like the Cebu Normal University, Cebu Technology University (formerly Cebu State College of Science and Technology CSCST) and the University of the Philippines would be included in the scholarship program.

For the meantime, Young said he is coordinating with schools to look for the best college courses suited for students who have less financial support.

When asked if the Commission on Audit would approve the plan, the mayor said ?whether COA will approve it or not, I will surely do it.?

?Why would COA say no? These are public school students. That's why (supporting) private schools students is still questionable, but we will fight this out first,? he said.

Fernandez, the city administrator, said that if COA has allowed Mandaue City to operate a government college, there is no reason state auditors should question Cebu City?s plan to offer college scholarships to graduating high school students.

The budget will be taken from proceeds of the sale of lots at the South Road Property (SRP), a 300-hectare reclaimed property owned by the city government.

?Education is the responsibility by the state. And SM is going to pay us billions (of pesos), so what?s hundreds of millions for the students,? he told CDN.

Young said criteria still have to be set for the scholarship program.

Initially, the mayor said students must be graduates of public schools in Cebu City and their parents must be registered voters of Cebu City.

Mayor Osmeña said even students who come from Cebu province but stay in Cebu City to study can qualify.

?Hopefully by June, when they start their studies, the money has been paid to the school. They only have to show the diploma. Then the school will bill us and we will pay the school,? the mayor explained.

The mayor said he was willing to commit an initial amount of P10,000 per graduate.

?Whether it will happen next year or it will be increased or go on every time, that will have to be evaluated by the incoming administration,? he said.

The scholarship program will include short courses that the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) is offering, he said.

?My vision of Cebu is that I don't want to see our graduating high school students end up as sales girls in department stores forever. I want to see our youths given the opportunity, the future, and the chance to be millionaires, to be doctors, lawyers and to achieve some high standard of professional status,? he said.

The proposal will need approval of the City Council, whose members all belong to the mayor?s party, Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan.

He said that since the program is new, it has to be assessed and adjusted from time to time.

?I don't expect it to be one hundred percent efficient at all because that's normal. You never start out perfect. But we will start something that no one had started before. And what I want the public to know is the government is behind them.?

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