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by Bettina Ysabelle Robles on An ACET Sample Essay and Some Tips

UP Survival Guide: STFAP Basics

Over many years of existence, the University of the Philippines system has become the institution for Filipinos from all walks of life who want a world-class education. For the less privileged, this often means getting into the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program or STFAP.

Known by its acronym or the moniker Iskolar ng Bayan Program, the STFAP aims to make a UP education more accessible to lower-income Filipinos. At the same time, the program tries to create a tuition fee structure that lets students pay only what they are able to afford. Ever since its establishment in SY 1989-1990, the STFAP has helped countless UP students finish their degrees in the university system.

Eligibility

The STFAP is open all Filipino citizens who’ll be enrolling in an undergraduate program within any campus. A bachelor’s degree in any program automatically disqualifies you from receiving subsidy, except when applying for a medical or law degree. Criminal, administrative or civil cases may also be grounds for disqualification from the program.

Students can use the STFAP in combination with other scholarships to fund tuition and other expenses. However, the STFAP will only give a subsidy amounting to a maximum of 1.5 times the difference between the printed STFAP subsidy rate and the non-STFAP rate. Many students take advantage of the STFAP in conjunction with other scholarships like the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) scholarships for science majors.

Application

Forms needed for applying to the STFAP program may be claimed for 10 pesos at any university campus, or can simply be downloaded from the STFAP site and printed. The accomplished forms must then be submitted to the STFAP office of the campus where you intend to enroll. Every STFAP application also requires the submission of various papers demonstrating financial need.

If you intend to apply for an STFAP subsidy, be ready with your entire family’s financial records. The application form asks an exhaustive list of questions regarding the earning capacity of every member of your household. All the household expenses and incomes must also be listed down and submitted. Utility bills, income tax returns and real property papers are also required attachments to the accomplished STFAP form.

STFAP applications are processed in batches starting with an early batch. The first batch of processed applications are released as early as a month prior to enrollment, while the last one is posted as late as a month into the semester.

The STFAP makes use of tiered alphabetized brackets, with each lettered tier symbolizing an income level for each student’s family. Upon enrollment, all UP students are assumed to belong to Bracket A – the bracket for families earning more than PhP1,000,000 each year – with its tuition rate of PhP1,500 per unit enrolled.

You can enter Bracket B – incomes of PhP500,000 to PhP1,000,000 – upon presentation of a signed certification and the necessary financial documents at validation. Otherwise, you’ll have to accomplish the STFAP application form and submit it to the STFAP office.

Benefits

Under the STFAP, you can get benefits with regard to tuition fee payments, laboratory fees and, in some cases, a monthly stipend from the university. The brackets with their corresponding benefits are as follows:

  • Bracket A (income of over PhP1,000,000 annually) students pay the full tuition fee at PhP1,500 per unit
  • Bracket B (income of PhP500,001 to PhP1,000,000 annually) students pay only the base tuition at PhP1,000 per unit
  • Bracket C (income of PhP250,001 to PhP500,000 annually) applicants pay 60% of the base tuition at PhP600 per unit
  • Bracket D (income of PhP135,001 to PhP250,000 annually) students pay 30% of the base tuition at PhP300 per unit
  • Bracket E1 (income of PhP80,001 to PhP135,000 annually) and Bracket E2 (income of PhP80,000 or less annually) students do not have to pay tuition fees. Additionally, Bracket E2 students get a monthly allowance valued at PhP12,000 every semester or about PhP2,400 every month.

Students categorized under Brackets A through D also have to pay full laboratory and miscellaneous fees amounting to about PhP2,000 upon enrollment.

Applications for the STFAP should be done prior to enrollment so that your benefits may be deducted from the amount you have to pay at the Office of the University Registrar (OUR). If your processed STFAP application is not yet available by the time you get to validation, you will have to pay the full tuition rate for the moment. Your STFAP benefits will be applied later on, and the university will issue a refund for the difference.

Maintenance

A student’s STFAP bracket is valid for the entire school year applied, and is renewable every year. In order to qualify for reapplication to the STFAP, you should

  • have a general weighted average (GWA) of at least 3.0 for the previous year
  • not have dropped more than one course or subject
  • receive grades in at least 15 units, not considering incomplete or dropped subjects

Be sure to ask questions well before deadlines. The staff at the STFAP offices are usually very helpful and will be glad to help you with queries and concerns. Once the deadline passes, however, they can do little to change your status until applications reopen.

UP Scholarships and Loans

Education isn’t cheap nowadays, even in a state-run institution like the University of the Philippines. With tuition fees hitting an average of more than PhP40,000 every school year, more and more students are finding it increasingly difficult to fund their studies. Fortunately, you have quite a number of options to pay for your UP education without as much financial strain.

Scholarships

If you’re only about to take the UP College Admission Test (UPCAT), you should make sure you do your best. The test takers with the top 50 scores are eligible to claim an Oblation Scholarship, which would let you study for any undergraduate degree without having to pay a cent. On top of that, you also get a monthly stipend from the university.

High school seniors also have the option to try for the RA 7687 scholarships under the Department of Science and Technology. A huge number of students from all campuses study under the RA 7687 scholarships. Despite the restrictions on allowable majors, the scholarship gives significant subsidies for tuition and books, and a stipend besides.

Should you be unable to make it to those test-based scholarships, you could also try going to the Office of Student Scholarships and Services (OSSS) on the 2nd floor of Vinzon’s Hall. The OSSS has an exhaustive list of grants and scholarships from both individuals and organizations. On-campus organizations and UP alumni offer many scholarships and grants, particularly to students who show exceptional academic promise.

Bear in mind, though, that selection for those scholarships can be very subjective and always goes beyond mere grades. An interview with the scholarship trustees or granters is a typical component of the selection process, so you’ll have to show how your personality and goals are in line with the scholarship’s goals.

When looking at scholarships, also be aware that most programs look for applicants that come from a particular socio-economic background. Most of the scholarships offered by local government units fall into this category. Watch out for phrases like ‘indigent,’ ‘less privileged’ and ‘financially needy’ in the eligibility terms of each scholarship or grant.

Apply for a few scholarships as soon as you receive your invitation to enroll from the university. The application process takes time, and you have to be able to get the funds in time for enrollment. Payment arrangements can vary widely between organizations, so it’s always a good idea to start early so that your enrollment goes without a hitch.

Student Loans

Aside from scholarships, the OSSS also offers tuition and short-term loans to students who need help funding their education for the moment. Tuition loans can be used to help pay for tuition fees during enrollment, while short-term loans are generally smaller sums for books and other school expenses.

Freshmen are allowed to borrow up to 70% of their total payable fees for the semester, while sophomores, juniors and seniors can borrow up to 80% of that amount. The loan itself can be repaid in one payment or in regular installments, so long as the entire sum is paid back by the week of final examinations for the semester.

Short-term loans work with similar terms, except that students are only allowed to borrow up to PhP1,000. The entire short-term loan plus interest and fees should also be paid back within 90 days, with the interest rate set at 0.5% per month.

Like any loan at a financial institution, the loan from the OSSS must be guaranteed, in this case by a member of the UP faculty or staff. The guarantor should have an annual salary of at least PhP72,000. A college secretary or head of office should also witness the agreement between student and guarantor. The OSSS asks repayment from the guarantor when students default on their loans.

Student loans are very often availed in tandem with on-campus employment like research assistantships. Although they don’t pay very much, the research assistantships help many students pay off their loans without encroaching so much on time used for academics.

It’s entirely possible for you to pay for your UP education, even with a less-than-ideal financial situation. Doing so isn’t exactly easy, but it’s definitely doable with a little paper pushing and by going to all the right places.