(GFR Media)

The new certified Fiscal Plan, that provides for the restructuring of the financial, administrative and academic order of the University of Puerto Rico, seeks to drive this important institution towards efficiency and the development of new sources of income.

These objectives need the guarantee of an implementation that will benefit the University and extend its legacy of contributions to the island. The constructive dialogue between the University community and the Oversight Board is the appropriate route to fine-tune the implementation of its comprehensive reorganization.

It is crucial for the educational mission to grow and become relevant in this path taken by the University at a time when Puerto Rico is facing its reconstruction.

Broadly, the university fiscal map for the next five years seeks to adjust expenses and diversify sources of income. The measures include the consolidation of administrative functions in three of the eleven campuses, savings in tuition waivers, staff reorganization with adjustments in benefits, and credit costs increases in a staggered way.

They are significant changes. Its objective is to achieve a fiscally viable university. Achieving them efficiently should neutralize the effect that the cuts in the central government contribution may have on the quality of the offers and the learning opportunities of the students.

This year, the government allocated $ 655 million to the UPR; it is projected that the amount will drop to $ 442 million by 2023. It should be noted that the University has great potential to raise new funds. Possibilities include patents resulting from research, provision of services to other institutions or companies, and private sector sponsorship to scientific and cultural programs.

New sources of income can strengthen access to higher education, especially for students with limited economic resources. 40 percent of UPR students require financial aid. To address these students, the fiscal plan establishes economic need standards for scholarships and tuition waivers. The purpose is to mitigate the impact of increases in the cost of credits for low-income students. At undergraduate level, the cost of credit will be $ 157 in 2023.

By 2023, the plan also contemplates a reduction in the total number of students in the system, from currently 58,400 to 48,700 at Bachelor level. This projection is based on the population decline translated into a smaller number of higher education graduates.

Another aspect of the plan in dispute is pension cuts. Communication is essential to harmonize the position of the University that its retirement system has made the adjustments that ensure its solvency, with the mission of the Board to ensure long-term sustainability.

On the administrative side, there will be a reduction of the University staff, from 13,000 non-teaching employees to 10,650 in five years. This change would be possible due to consolidation of functions in areas such as Human Resources and Finance, and the consolidation of administrative structures of the eleven campuses into three.

We must allow the restructuring of the University to work. Puerto Rico needs a University strengthened in its academic and research capacities to create the human capital that reconstruction and socio-economic development goals require. Administrative and fiscal efficiency will allow the UPR to strengthen the educational mission that has inspired so much pride in Puerto Rico. 

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