By Juan Escandor Jr.
Inquirer Southern Luzon
SORSOGON CITY—Wanting in laboratory facilities but blessed with dedicated teachers, a little-known state college here has proven it can equal the finest engineering schools in the country. Its recent graduates have topped successive engineering board exams.
Sorsogon State College (SSC), some 500 kilometers south of Manila, has produced the likes of Joseph Cyril R. Gredoña and Daniel E. Forteza, who ranked first and second, respectively, in the mechanical engineering board exams last month.
Gredoña—a son of a tricycle driver—garnered a grade of 92.70 percent, while Forteza—a son of a farmer/fisherman—got 92.65 percent in the exams.
In April, another SSC graduate and a son of a shellfish vendor, Jhonrey Aguirre, topped the electrical engineering board exams with a grade of 89.65 percent. A college mate, Leandro Salamatin placed 10th with a grade of 87.05 percent.
SSC first made its mark among engineering schools in 2006 when its graduate, Emmanuel Liwag, placed eighth in the electrical engineering board exams.
One of the oldest trade schools in the country, SSC became a state college in December 1993 with three national vocational high schools in the province integrated to it.
“We don’t have Ph.D.s in our faculty, which we still dream of until now. But we could say our instructors are good teachers while we see a high number of students with talents,” says Felino S. Jasmin, SSC director of branding and communications.
He says most of the college instructors have at least 20 years of teaching experience.
Jasmin points out that the school’s performance is measured by its passing rate in board exams, which must not go below the national passing rate.
Against the national passing rate of 62 percent, SSC’s feat in the mechanical engineering board exams has become more meaningful because of the school’s 79 percent passing rate. Nineteen out of its 24 mechanical engineering graduates last school year passed the board exam.
P150 per unit
He says SSC only charges P150 per unit and a student here needs at least P5,000 for one semester.
The state college received a budget of P93.64 million from the national government in 2010 while the fees collected from 8,570 students totaled P44 million.
Jasmin says 260 personnel are paid from the budget given by the national government, while 147 personnel are subsidized by the income SSC derives from the fees it collects.
Noel Benavides, program chair of the engineering and architecture department, says SSC is still wanting in laboratory facilities, which are shared by 40 to 45 students in every class session.
He says the ideal class size in a laboratory is 25 to 30 students but the students have to make do with what they have.
This limitation, however, did not prevent the students from delivering very satisfactory performance in the board exams.
Although SSC charges the lowest rate compared with those collected by other engineering schools, many students still have difficulty paying tuition and other fees.
Jasmin cites Gredoña and Aguirre who both struggled hard financially before topping the mechanical and electrical engineering board exams, respectively.
From Aroroy, Juban
The eldest among six siblings, Gredoña hails from the far-flung village of Aroroy in Juban, Sorsogon.
His parents were able to ask a landowner in Sorsogon City to allow them to build a small house in the city while Gredoña was in college.
Gredoña recalls that when he was in elementary school, he walked 2 kilometers to reach the school from their house.
Forteza, who placed second to Gredoña, also comes from a low-income family. His father, the only breadwinner, makes a living from farming and fishing in the village of Macabari in Barcelona town.
He was a consistent honor student from elementary to high school and found the questions in the board exams familiar. Still, he was surprised he made it to the top two.
Forteza says he hopes that his achievement will be a life-changing experience for his family, especially since a big company has offered him a job.