Making higher education more accessible for the poor serves the equity objective. Until today, the main policy tool to achieve this objective is funding public higher education institutions. This paper assesses a new initiative of the Philippine government called the Students Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (SGP-PA) implemented starting 2012. SGP-PA has two important unique features: (1) it is well targeted to identified Pantawid Pamilya households and (2) it provides a grant amount that is sufficient to cover all regular education expenses including living allowance.
Comparing the academic performance of grantees to that of their peers, the results show that grantees from poorer socioeconomic background had only poorer grades during the first year. They were already performing at par in Math and even better in Science and English, compared to nongrantees, starting their second year. The study also highlights the importance of entrance exam scores in the academic performance of both grantees and nongrantees. Finally, the study documents the challenges faced by the program and provides recommendations on how to address these challenges.