More than a decade ago, Elbert Kay Serrano wanted to be a nurse. His parents, a farmer and a canteen helper, didn’t have the resources to help him finish college. Elbert worked any job he could get — a caregiver, a service crew at a fast food chain, a clerk, a helper-while taking up nursing at PHINMA Araullo University.
Elbert is just one of the thousands of underserved Filipinos whose chances of getting into college and finishing their degree is hampered by their circumstances. “Getting into college and graduating can often be prohibitively expensive for poor families,” said Dr. Chito B. Salazar, PHINMA Education President and CEO. “This barrier to entry is one of the many challenges that we are tackling because we believe that every Filipino deserves to have quality education.”
An education network for the underserved
Recent data from the Commission of Higher Education (CHED) shows that only 33% of college-aged Filipinos are currently enrolled. PHINMA Education, by intent and design, has been addressing this issue for the past 18 years. The education network, which now operates 10 schools in the Philippines and Indonesia, prides itself on crafting programs and interventions that make it easy for underserved students to get the quality education they want and deserve.
To date, PHINMA Education has over 95,000 students across its ten campuses in the Philippines and Indonesia. Of this number, around 60% are benefiting from the Hawak Kamay Scholarship program that provides discounts of up to 75% on enrollment fees. There are no entrance exams to make entry less prohibitive. It also monitors Students-at-Risk (StARs) and conducts home visits to help students return to school.
In 2021, PHINMA Education launched KANLUNGAN, a free individual therapy program for both employees and students. “We don’t stop at simply giving out scholarships. We make sure that their mental and emotional needs as first-generation college students are also taken care of,” Dr. Salazar said.
Learning strategies that adapt to changing needs
“When the pandemic started, we resolved that nothing should stop our students from learning and we prepared models that would provide them the flexibility they require in order to learn unhampered,” Dr. Salazar explained. “Our models proved to be so successful that we are now making them a permanent option for our schools.”
The two models, Flex Learning and Remote and Distance (RAD) Learning, relied on printed activity sheets combined with strong teacher and peer support through a mobile data allocation that renewed every month. At no additional cost, students were able to access Facebook Messenger
and G-suite tools to do their course work and attend webinars. FlexLearning students will have in-person classes once regulations allow, while RadLearning students will continue to be home-based.
High board passing results across schools
Elbert Kay Serrano graduated in 2013 and is now a municipal representative for the Department of Health (DOH) in Nueva Ecija. He is also working on getting his doctorate. Those who want to follow in his footsteps are in good hands: PHINMA Education has a 79% board passing rate for first-time takers. Even better, in the recently concluded Nursing Licensure Examination (NLE), the five PHINMA Education schools with first-time takers averaged 97%.
“We are proud to have six topnotchers in the NLE with PHINMA University of Pangasinan (PHINMA UPang) students placing 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 10th, while a Southwestern University PHINMA (SWU PHINMA) student placed 9th,” shared Dr. Salazar. “PHINMA UPang was also cited as the second top performing school in the country for having a total of 62 passers, including second takers, and a 92.54% overall passing rate,” he added.
From 2004 to May 2022, the network has had 122 board exam topnotchers in the Philippines across courses such as Nursing, Education, Criminology, Electrical Engineering, Medical Technology, and Medicine.
Affordable education towards employability
More than 70% of PHINMA Education graduates are employed within a year after graduation, a percentage expected to increase as the economy bounces back from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We believe that the school’s responsibility does not stop the moment a student graduates. Rather, schools should keep supporting their students, including ensuring that they get the help they need to get employed after graduation,” Dr. Salazar stated. PHINMA Education partners with companies that provide training and internships to help students become work-ready.
PHINMA Education’s placement office, Alumni and Corporate Engagement (ACE), currently has 259 active companies in various industries that provide hiring, internship, and training for its students. Aside from online career fairs, graduating students go through mock interviews and feedback sessions with their teachers to prepare them for actual job interviews. Students also attend a series of webinars and career talks with industry partners.
For more than two decades, PHINMA Education has shown that quality, private education does not need to be expensive to be effective. Serving underserved students by tailoring its strategies to their needs, resources, and aspirations, has enabled it to make lives better through education. It’s a mission that the company is determined to pursue even more diligently in the years to come.