DLSU’s renewed vision-mission establishes the institution as a University geared towards serving the poor.
Br. Jun Erguiza FSC, president and chancellor of DLSU, shares that addressing the concern of the poor has been aways the direction of the University. “[It is also in our best interest] for us to be able to give access to those who are financially poor but are intellectually capable of taking University studies,” he explains.
The University has already undertaken several initiatives to realize this thrust.
Operation Big Brother
DLSU’s efforts can be seen through social engagement projects primarily with public schools.
One of DLSU’s means of tapping into public schools was through Operation Big Brother (OBB), which is handled by the College of Education’s Lasallian Institute for Development and Educational Research (CED-LIDER).
It is an initiative that began in 2000, with the aim of providing children in public high schools with education similar to what is offered in La Salle Green Hills and other La Salle high schools, with teachers receiving educational training and material assistance from OBB.
The project originally partnered with high schools from Manila such as Arellano High School and Gregorio Perfecto High School. It has eventually expanded to more high schools in Quezon City and Caloocan.
Around 25 percent of those under OBB pass the entrance exams of the University of the Philippines (UP), Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), and DLSU. After completing their high school education, the OBB program recommends students for Student Financial Assistance in DLSU. Potential scholars are then offered full scholarships.
Fulfilling the initiatives
Similar to the assistance recommended by OBB, it was just two years ago that former DLSU President and Chancellor Br. Armin Luistro FSC started the One La Salle Scholarship fund, an initiative to raise the scholar population in each La Salle school to 20 percent.
In line with this initiative, the University plans to get the 50 top graduates of public schools from all over the country. Out of 28,000 public high school students, the top 50 seniors are given full scholarships. In addition, an allowance of P10,000 will be provided every month. The amount will cover their board and lodging, food and books. For board and lodging, DLSU’s own dormitory, the Lasallian center, can be used by the students.
Br. Jun explains that it is not enough to offer just the full scholarship. He explains that many potential scholars would still decline as their families cannot provide for the extra expenses such as supplies and living expenses. Thus, there is a need to provide the additional subsidies.
Public perception about the University was also seen as an issue. In an informal survey conducted by The LaSallian for public high school students, majority of the respondents saw DLSU as one of the best choices for tertiary education in the country.
However, the University was not seen as the most viable choice. Respondents saw Lasallians as “elitist and unapproachable” and fear that they might have a difficult time adjusting to the new environment. As the students will come from public schools, Br. Jun admits that they might experience culture shock when they enter the University.
To solve this problem, Br. Jun shares that DLSU will task guidance counselors to help students adjust to and cope with University life. Funding for the initiative is also seen as a problem. Funding will primarily come from the One La Salle Scholarship Fund and the DLSU Scholarship foundation.
Last year, the One La Salle Scholarship Fund reached roughly P1 Billion in endowments. However, only five percent of the endowment fund will be rolled back to provide for the full tuition, fees and allowances of the 50 scholars.
Br. Jun admits, that financially, the initiative is costly. He estimates that the University would spend about P17 million for the first batch in its first year of implementation. This amount, he explains, will double during the succeeding years. “If it is for the full stretch, I think it would be about P200 million,” he shares.
For Br. Jun, the scholarship population in DLSU is relatively small. Other La Salle schools, compared to DLSU, are able to get more scholars because of lower financial costs shouldered by the school.
The scholar population in some schools has already reached as high as 18 percent, but for DLSU, it is still around 12 to 14 percent.
“I would like to look at this [initiative] as an occasion for renewal for the school that you have poor students who are able to enter DLSU and they could mingle to those who have the means and could look at each other equally,” he emphasizes.