IE University in Madrid, Spain. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Bukas, a local fintech company offering student loans, will partner with IE university in Madrid, Spain, this December. The private education institution is the first international school in the Bukas roster. 

“With this partnership, we will now be able to provide Filipinos an opportunity to study abroad,” said Jon Robert F. Emlano, country manager of Bukas. 

Bukas, which offers tuition installment plans to Filipino students, saw a near-ninefold increase in applications in the two years since it was founded in 2019.  

“This year, we already have over 13,000 [student loan] applications to date, and we expect more to come before the end of the year,” said Mr. Emlano in an email to BusinessWorld. This is an increase from about 1,500 applications in 2019 and 5,000 in 2020.   

The startup has also more than doubled its student coverage — or the total number of students that its partner schools have at the tertiary and graduate school levels — to almost 300,000, up from 120,000 at the start of the year.   

The idea behind Bukas, which was registered as a corporation in 2019 under the name Bukas Finance Corp., was to democratize education in the Philippines.   

“We chose education financing because we believe that affordability is a first principles approach in improving the education sector for the Philippines. We want more students to not have to stop their schooling for financial reasons,” Mr. Emlano said.   

Bukas has a mobile app that allows for students to submit loan applications, monitor payment deadlines, and pay outstanding loans. Its first student borrower was an engineering student from Mapua University who had his account activated in May 2019.  

It has since assisted students enrolled in 35 partner institutions, including Far Eastern University, University of Asia and the Pacific, SoFA Design Institute, University of Bohol, University of the Visayas, Malayan Colleges Mindanao, and Eskwelabs 

There are no minimum grade or year-level requirements to apply for a tuition installment plan. The minimum application requirements are as follows:  

  • Must be a Filipino citizen and at least 18 years old  
  • Must provide a school ID or government issued ID  
  • Must be enrolled in, or is in the process of enrolling in, one of Bukas’ partner schools with a proof of enrollment  
  • Must have a guarantor who’s at least 21 years of age and has a proof of income   

Working students can be self-guarantors.  

Bukas disburses the full tuition amount directly to the student’s enrolled school as soon as an application is confirmed. Students can re-apply for additional tuition coverage every semester.  

According to the Department of Education, K-12 enrolment for the 2020–2021 academic year declined 14%, equivalent to 3.8 million pupils, to 23.2 million. Total enrollment in private schools also plunged 60%, reflecting an exodus to public schools as parents’ finances took a hit during this pandemic.  

Only 10.1% of Filipinos had an academic degree in 2010, per a census on population and housing from the Philippine Statistics Authority.  — Patricia B. Mirasol