UST HAS trimmed the number of scholars this year after a large increase in 2014, official data showed.

Following a hike in the number of scholars last year to 3,850 from 3,223 in 2013, the total number of scholars this academic year went down to 3,263, according to the latest Rector’s Report.

Hazel Maye Reyes, president of Becarios de Santo Tomas, the Thomasian scholars’ association, said the decrease could be partly attributed to a new requirement—high school valedictorians and salutatorians must first pass the Scholarship Qualifying Examination.

“I think the examination required for Santo Tomas scholarship is one factor for the decrease of scholars this academic year,” Reyes said in an email to the Varsitarian.

The qualifying exam, implemented last academic year under the Santo Tomas scholarship program, is administered by the Office for Admissions and is separate from the UST Entrance Examination. It is an achievement exam aimed at ensuring the quality of applicants.

UST has four scholarship programs, namely Santo Tomas for high school valedictorians and salutatorians; San Lorenzo Ruiz for students willing to work in UST offices and belonging to families with gross incomes of not more than 300,000 pesos; San Martin de Porres, a 50-percent scholarship for students who belong to families with gross incomes of less than 300,000 pesos; and Santo Domingo for athletes and musicians.

In previous years, high school valedictorians and salutatorians were automatically accepted once they applied for scholarship.

Reyes said the qualifying exam has both advantages and disadvantages.

“It has a two-pronged effect. First, it may intimidate students who are applying for scholarship. But the other effect is reasonable. The exam ensures the quality and excellence of the scholars and scholar-graduates that UST produces,” Reyes said.

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Office for Student Affairs Director Evelyn Songco for her part said the exam was only a “revival” of the scholarship procedure in the 1990s.

“When I started with the scholarship, there was already a qualifying test. Before, we decided to remove the qualifying test so that many will have access to [the scholarship], but we saw that some scholars were not able to adjust and maintain their [slots] by the second [year]. Kapag ang bata ay nagdaan sa qualifying test, mas malaki ang probability that they will sustain [their academic performance],” Songco said in a phone interview.

At any rate, a “balance” between scholarship programs is maintained since unused slots under the Santo Tomas program are opened for the San Martin de Porres program, Songco said.

In previous years, most scholars were in the Santo Tomas scholarship scheme, she noted.

Songco said opening more slots for the San Martin de Porres scholarship program showed that UST provides access to education for marginalized families.

Stricter policies are also being implemented in other scholarship schemes such as San Martin de Porres and San Lorenzo Ruiz, where scholars must avoid a grade of 3.0 in all subjects. Jerome P. Villanueva

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