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Startup firm seeks to help OFWs pay kids' tuition

When overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are asked why they chose to seek employment abroad, they would always say it's for their children's future.

But despite relatively higher salaries, many OFWs are still unable to pay their children's tuition in full, with some even resorting to loans, which could be dangerous.

Seeking to address this, web-based company PhilSmile is offering OFWs a way to save up for their children's next enrollment without needing credit or loans.

“By planning ahead, senders can keep themselves out of debt trap and loan sharks, such a common solution for the unbanked and short term migrants,” the firm said in a statement on its website.

The firm said it shuns intermediaries and pays directly to schools. Clients are asked to provide the company their name, email, and phone number. They must then give the name of the student and their school, before selecting their payment method. They could either pay the tuition in whole or pay a small amount every week.

As part of their services, parents can receive updates on their child's academic progress, including grades, attendance, and teacher reviews.

While PhilSmile will use their clients' accumulated funds to pay for their children's' tuition, they do not offer loans or credit.

Refunds will be given to clients who cannot make the full payment, but a fee will be charged. Registration itself is free until clients start payments for their children's enrollment.

Tech in Asia reported that the company recently received an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Transfer To, an international airtime remittance company.

PhilSmile will use this funding to expand its network of partner schools in the Philippines and make payments an easier process in OFW-heavy areas. So far, the firm has Emilio Aguinaldo College and the Philippine Association of Private Schools, Colleges and Universities as partners.

The firm also hopes to launch financial literacy and self-empowerment workshops in the Philippines and overseas.

OFW remittances increased by 6 percent to $5.5 billion in the first quarter of 2014 from $5.2 billion a year earlier, according to a report by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in May. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News
Tags: philsmile, ofws