I enrolled for my last semester in college a few days ago. I paid a tuition fee of exactly 78.50 pesos to the University of the Philippines (UP).
Since I’m a big nerd, I computed the total amount of money I spent for college tuition fees and the average amount I spent per semester.
Total Amount = PHP 935
Average Amount = PHP 77.92 / semester
I cannot stress it enough: I paid under a 1,000 pesos (merely 20 US dollars) for my ENTIRE college education. And this was possible because I am an Oblation Scholar of UP.
Being an Oblation Scholar of the University means that you have to be one of the Top 50 scorers of UP’s highly competitive national entrance exam. In my batch, 60,000 high school students took the exam, and only 50 out of that 60,000 (0.083%) would be granted the prestigious scholarship.
I was one of the 50. I was one of the very lucky 50.
Going through college, I never forgot the fact that I am an Oblation Scholar. My family was capable of paying UP’s PHP 30,000-a-semester price tag, but I was privileged with what is basically a free ride. The fact hit me hard whenever I heard of fellow UP students scrambling for discounts through the socialized tuition system. The fact hit me hard whenever I met any high school graduate who couldn’t pay their way through college.
Some students would take loans, work jobs, tutor kids to pay for tuition, but I paid 1,000 bucks – which is just one big pizza, or a pair of shoes, or a bottle of wine.
Yes, I am an Oblation Scholar and I am lucky. But I don’t deserve the scholarship – at least not yet.
I have made a lot of goals in my college life. I wanted to be part of an organization, wanted to learn a new skill, wanted to excel, wanted to make my parents proud. But one of my biggest goals was this: work hard enough to deserve the scholarship.
I wanted to show my fellow scholars, my fellow students, my teachers, and the taxpayers who made my education possible that I squeezed every ounce of my education and became the best person because of it. That did not just mean good grades. That also meant that I have to pay forward.
I needed to embody what it meant to be a scholar: to be a woman for my country. And I knew that I did not wait until after college to do that. Through my work with KRIS Library, the organizations I’m part of, and the people around me, I continue to work to show that my being an Oblation scholar is justified.
And as I take the final phase of my journey – my last semester in college – I only hope that, on the stage at graduation, I can finally say that I have maximized my 1,000-peso education.
That I have learned enough to make sure that, now and in the future, I can contribute positively to the lives of thousands of other Filipinos who deserved an education too.
(Originally Written: January 2016)