"Poverty is not just
a lack of money;
it is not having the capability to realise one's full potential
as a human being"
~ Amartya Sen
We view investment into higher education as a fundamental driver of poverty alleviation. Improving access to higher education has a significant impact on earning potential and job attainment, but more than this, it increases the substantive freedoms and capabilities that enable poor individuals to flourish (1).
Without a government support system in place like in many developed countries, the high costs of university tuition block all but a wealthy minority of Cambodians from attaining a higher education.
Our Bright Futures Education Fund is a scholarship program that invests in bright high school students facing serious financial hardship. Students are funded to complete an undergraduate degree at a local institution. Almost all scholarship recipients come from poor farming families living in rural areas, and are the first in the family to study at the tertiary level.
The Bodia Group actively tests a number of financing models for higher education. For some students, our organisation covers 100% of the tuition fee and supplementary schooling costs. For others, students agree to pay back 25% of the tuition fee once they have a job that pays at least $200 a month. This money is then used to fund the next round of students.
This 'pay it forward' system is an income-contingent loan scheme that allows multiple cohorts of students to graduate using a single upfront capital investment. The Bodia Group does not profit whatsoever; it raises the money, sponsors the students, and keeps up the cyclical, sustainable financing model.
(1) Amartyr Sen (2009), Development as Freedom.
(2) John Humphreys (2016), Education in Cambodia: Rate of Return and Personal Equity Finance. PhD Thesis, UQ School of Economics.
Bright Futures Education Fund
Fully Subsidised Scholarships
For some students, our organisation covers 100% of the tuition fee and supplementary schooling costs. This is mainly with youth whom we have developed longstanding relationships with through local care organisations in Phnom Penh. Once they have decided on a career path, we find them the best university for that degree and we also cover other costs associated with schooling including uniforms, transportation, books, and stationery.
Income Contingent Loans
For other students, our organisation uses an income contingent loan scheme to pay for their tuition. Similar to the HECS model used in Australia, students pay back a small portion of the total investment into their higher education. These scholarship recipients agree to repay 25% of their tuition fee in monthly instalments once they have a job that pays at least $200 per month. Student repayments are then used to finance more scholarships.
This 'pay it forward' system allows multiple cohorts of students to graduate using a single upfront capital investment. It means that poor students with no money can study at university and once they are in stable employment as a result of their studies, they help more people like their past selves to escape poverty.
In most cases, covering tuition fees is not enough for poor students to excel. The Bodia Group also provides extra funding for living and schooling expenses in the form of a monthly allowance.
We are currently partnered with The University of Management and Economics in Kampong Cham province, where we fund ten students to study an undergraduate degree.