BAY, Laguna -- A renowned development institution opened here on Monday the Philippines' first college offering a four-year entrepreneurship course with emphasis on microfinance.

The Center for Agriculture and Rural Development – Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (Card-MRI) said the program will equip aspiring entrepreneurs with complete knowledge and competencies to start and manage their own business.

"Card-MRI Development Institute will be the venue where students will be molded to be the future soldiers taking the nation out of poverty," Card-MRI said, adding it was their members who had requested to put up a school for their children.

To expand its reach, Department of Education Undersecretary for Partnership and External Linkages Undersecretary Mario Deriquito urged CMDI to offer the course to senior high school students and out-of-school youth.

Deriquito said in a newspaper article last April that various sources of data put the number of Filipino OSYs aged 15-30 at anywhere between 3 million and 4 million.

Of this number, the department said more than 1.9 million OSY have been mapped and listed in the database of Abot-Alam, an initiative that seeks to identify OSY and enroll them in appropriate program interventions in education, entrepreneurship, and employment.

Out of the 1.9 million OSY, Deriquito said 20 percent wanted to take up an entrepreneurship course.

“Isang bagay ito na kailangang pag-isipan at pag-aralan dahil merong ganoong pangangailangan sa ating lipunan,” said Deriquito at the school launch.

Card-MRI founder and managing director Jaime Aristotle Alip said that they are just waiting for the forms from DepEd so that they can work on Deriquito’s proposal.

CMDI has 160 students for this school year who pay P215 per unit or around P7,000 per semester including miscellaneous fees. Most of the students are sons and daughters of Card-MRI members.

For next year, Alip hopes to add more courses like microinsurance, business development services, accountancy, and information technology and build another school in Mindanao.

"Instituting CMDI into a tertiary school is a way of Card-MRI to improve the quality of life of many Filipinos and continually fight poverty in the country," Card-MRI said.

Card-MRI currently supports 1,823 scholars studying in different schools all over the country. (Roanne Therese Almoniña, UST intern/Sunnex)