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ILOCOS NORTE, Philippines – After graduating from college in 2023, Jezreel Larry Caunca immediately enrolled in law school. He now juggles his time as a working-student, making sure that he gets both work and school covered.
Given the rigorous demand of the study of the law, he would have wanted to be a full-time student. But he chose to work to help cover the cost of studying.
Caunca, a first-year law student of Northwestern University in Laoag City, is among the first applicants of the “Juris Doctor (Law) Scholarship Program of Ilocos Norte,” a new education scholarship offered by the provincial government to aspiring lawyers.
It aims to encourage aspiring lawyers to choose a career in government service, particularly at the provincial government.
In Ordinance No. 051-2023, the provincial government would set aside an amount of P1.8 million from its budget per academic year to cover the tuition and 10-month stipend of 16 law students enrolled in public and private law schools in the province.
The scholarship would also prioritize poor but deserving students.
On Friday, January 5, Caunca said in an interview that to be granted a legal scholarship would be a “good opportunity” as it would help him and his family with the expenses he incurs in studying the law.
Serve the people
The law student said that public scholarship programs, like the one offered by the provincial government, are also important to shift the focus of legal education to public service.
He believed that the issue of the lack of lawyers engaged in pro bono services, especially for the poor, has been persisting because of the “high cost” of legal studies and the “limited scholarship opportunities, most of which come from the private sectors.”
Senator Raffy Tulfo, in filing a similar measure before the Senate in 2022, said that the cost of legal education in private institutions ranged from P75,000 to P98,000 per semester. While in state universities, it costs around P24,000 to P30,000.
Tulfo said that the figures “exclude all living expenses and other necessities.”
Because of the expenses, Caunca had in mind that law graduates might think of “recouping the investment made in their legal education” instead of the goal to serve the public.
“[This scholarship offering] is instrumental in encouraging young individuals like us pursuing law to focus not only on financial gains but also on serving the people, especially those in need.”
According to the ordinance, the screening of the 16 legal scholars include a scholastic record (60%), economic considerations (30%), and an interview (10%).
The members of the Ilocos Norte provincial scholarship committee would conduct the final screening and evaluate applications for the scholarship.
The scholars, who must be residents of Ilocos Norte, should maintain at least a general weighted average of 2.50, and must not incur a grade of a conditional 4.0 or a failing 5.0 in any subject, the ordinance reads.
Accepted scholars are asked to render a “return service” at the provincial government of at least one year for every period they get shortlisted for the scholarship.
Caunca, for his part, said that he would gladly make the service if he gets shortlisted.
Interested applicants can learn more about the program through the Provincial Education Office.
“It is acceptable to me. I intend to serve the taxpayers who funded this scholarship program,” he said. – Rappler.com